Spiritually Tongue-Tied

My dear Reader, thank you for hanging in with me while I figure out my new schedule.  I’ve now had every class at least once and have started both of my jobs; it will take another week or so for things to truly settle into a rhythm, but we’re getting there.  For now, look for an update every other week (sorry, I can’t yet guarantee which day.  Consider it a surprise…coming from a person who hates surprises.  Can’t have everything, I guess).

I can tell that I’m finding at least some footing because I’ve reverted to my practice of calling wherever I sleep “home”—I no longer say “I’m going back to the house” but “I’m headed home after work.”  This is a lot weirder to me considering I very strongly understand “home” to be back in the Land of Pilgrims—but one identity crisis at a time.

My schedule is a huge part of the reason I’ve been posting erratically and it’s a very easy thing to blame, but a smaller and very important part is that I haven’t really had anything to say.  I bounce from thing to thing here, barely registering what part of the week I’m in.  This is one of the reasons I’m so fiercely adamant about maintaining this blog when it might be easier to let it slide into internet oblivion:  especially when I’m crazy busy, I need to stop and make space for the Spirit—or recognize the many places the Spirit isn’t waiting for my invitation.  You’d think that being in divinity school I’d just be awash in Spirit interactions, but it isn’t like that.

I take that back; there are definitely parts that are like that.  I’m still wrapping my head around one class that opened in prayer (my academic mind just freaked out at the mixing of education and religion there, even though I know perfectly well that’s the whole damn point of the endeavor; oh, the ways we are trained).  It’s super weird to me that I shift from class to chapel on Wednesdays and that’s a thing we do and everyone understands it (no, chapel isn’t mandatory, but a lot of first years come because it’s part of building the community here).  I got into a conversation with a housemate of mine the other day about the ways the Church creates sacred space but then makes that space so sacred it eclipses God and must be preserved even at the cost of ministry.  It may seem odd to you that all this seems odd to me, Reader, considering I’ve been keeping a blog on where various aspects of the spiritual pop up in my life for years, but this kind of concentration is brand new.  Coming to this from a secular job is a little bit of cultural whiplash.

So I do have a million things to say about spiritual implications in my life, and perhaps that’s the problem.  There’s too much about God and not a whole lot of God going on in my world at the moment.  I had an unforeseen spare hour on Thursday and I took it to go exploring—I’ve made a point of taking any free time I have to just wander around the campus and the city and try to understand where I am and where other things are.  (There are some amazing restaurants here, y’all.)  I ended up in a chapel that belongs to the Episcopalians.  It’s a beautiful A-frame church made of ceder, so when you walk in you feel like you’re breathing inside a hope chest.  (Okay, maybe that only works for me; my mother had a ceder hope chest when I was kid in which she kept blankets and that smell is very specific in my memory.)  There were strings of origami cranes criss-crossing the back window and thick, knitted, deep purple cushions on the oak-plank pews.  It was surprisingly rustic for this urban space—and I curled up on a back pew and just breathed for a while.

So much of my relationship with God is so volatile (as you have seen, Reader).  It has been some time since I just sat in God’s presence and was, not having to carry on a conversation with Him or yell about what He had done most lately that had made my life harder or offer endless apologies for having fucked up yet again.  God didn’t want to hear from me and He didn’t want to talk to me; He just wanted to breathe in that ceder space with me.

And we did.

And that was enough.

I eventually pulled out one of my textbooks to continue my assigned reading about the Roman perception of early Christians because, to my chagrin, I’ve gotten myself to a space where I can’t spend a full hour simply being without freaking out about what I’m not doing.  (This despite having totally wasted most of an evening this week doing things that are decidedly neither helpful nor productive; this is a conversation I think we’ve all had and are perhaps still having with ourselves, about what productivity looks like and when you feel you must have it.)  But sitting in that sanctuary (especially given my predilection for sanctuaries) with this book and the air conditioning unit thunking on and off was such an unexpectedly centering moment.  It was with God rather than thinking circles around Him.

How about you, Reader?  Where are the places where you need to be a little tongue-tied so you can clear all the words that are crowding your space?  What spaces do you have—real or metaphorical—that allow you to just breathe in the ceder-scented Spirit for a while?  Can you get there?

Your continued prayers are most welcome and desired, Reader, if you think to offer them.  It’s loud in all manner of ways here, and I need to remember the peace of not needing to constantly add to it.

 

 

But Jesus was in the back of the boat, asleep on a cushion. So they woke him up and asked him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?”  Then he got up, rebuked the wind, and told the sea, “Calm down! Be still!”  Then the wind stopped blowing, and there was a great calm.  (Mark 4:38-39, ISV)

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6 thoughts on “Spiritually Tongue-Tied

  1. Sheila Bigelow says:

    To rjmythicaladventures: If it helps you, I use your book to help ME pray when I’m dealing with customer service reps. We’ve had a lot interactions this summer, and some have been pretty frustrating, so your words and perspective have been helpful As to Christiana Pilgrim, you know you have our prayers. We miss your note-taking and your hugs. I was having a looooong monolog with God last night , as I sat with a friend’s father in his hospital room. I finally told myself to just stop and BE. It wasn’t cedar-scented and it wasn’t quiet, but it was a holy space at a “thin time.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s good to hear from you, whenever and however that happens.

    Speaking of strange experiences of the spiritual in unexpected places, I’ve been doing something this summer that has helped me more than I would’ve predicted. A few years ago my cyber-friend Constantina Wood, a Franciscan sister and artist, sent me a reproduction of an icon she had painted of Christ. I’ve kept it on a shelf at home and rarely looked at it, but this summer I placed it in my cubicle at the call center, so that I could gaze into his eyes all day while doing my work. Anyone who has read my book “Customer Service and the Imitation of Christ” knows that I consciously focus on praying while I’m taking phone calls, but this summer I felt like I needed some extra help. So I just gaze into those eyes all day, and I think especially of Paul’s words in Philippians 2, that although He was in the form of God, He didn’t think it was necessary to take advantage of that fact, but emptied Himself, assuming the form of a servant. And all day, in call after call, I have kept eye contact and prayed to be like that myself. “For it is God who is working in you, both to do his work and to want to,” Paul says. And I’ve found it to be so.

    May you continue to find it to be so as you do the important work you’ve set out to do.

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    • Wow, how powerful! It is indeed so helpful to have some visual focus when dealing with things like that; on my monitor at my last job I had written across the top “This is a child of God, as are you; do you speak in a way that honors that?” I didn’t have as much commitment as you have, but it did stop me a few times when I was about to tear myself or somebody else apart. I’m so glad that icon is working for you in that way, that’s awesome.

      And thank you, as ever, for the encouragement. Adjusting is needed in all manner of unexpected ways that have nothing to do with whether or not folks have accents, and I find myself impatient sometimes with how many times I get caught off-guard.

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