TUrn, turn, turn

I have been involved in several conversations recently that have in their own ways have led me to think about how we are all called to different things. Each of our gifts have unique qualities that through community and accountability give strength and allow us to make a whole. I was lucky to learn early through my experiences at the Catholic Worker that there is a need for all our gifts and callings. Some people are led to direct civil disobedience and others are the ones who get the phone call about who got arrested where and keep the community running in the interim. These pieces make a whole. One set of gifts is not more important than another--though through our own earthly egos it may be hard to remember that.

Right now, I need time to myself. I need to turn inward and do some hard work. I have always given greatly of myself to others, sometimes to my own detriment emotionally and psychologically. Now is a time for me. I have recently had less patience with others, especially my friends, I hear what they are saying but instead of the advice and solid support they are used to I get snippy. I say things like, "Life sucks, shit happens all the time, you just have to find a way to make do and not dwell." Or when it is relationship advice I say, "Really, you think you are the only person who is alone that doesn't want to be? You think that I want a life where I am alone and have no one to give me a hug or lie next to me on a 'dark night of the soul'"? I have been accused of being callous and going too far with my tough love of late. I have distanced myself from my family too. A family I have always been close to, a family I have always taken a role of responsibility with. A family I love, but after our loss this summer, it is something I need to have space from to grieve and to nurture myself rather than them.

My last post was about how all my life, I have searched and yearned for community, only to find that I do not want it any longer. What I really need is more time for inward reflection. I need time to learn to be still after so many years of flitting here and there. I need to relearn to listen to my "still small voice" and to nurture my spirituality. I think I need to figure out what it means to be the most at peace with myself that I have ever been. The irony, is that as I am having a harder time relating to others and less desiring of community, I need more than ever my spiritual community. I have recently agreed to take on a leadership roll with the group I worship with. I need to be accountable to my spiritual community, my spiritual development, and this group of seekers. I need to keep them at the center of my life. In order to do so, I felt that the spirit was guiding me to accept--that I am prepared to be in such a position as I have never been before. The need I speak of is not out of ego or something worldly, but a deep spiritual need driven by the Divine.

However, I have begun to doubt myself. I feel like I can't keep up or on top of things in my day-to-day life. I don't know that I am prepared enough (spiritually, emotionally, etc) or seasoned enough. I am new to the YM and I haven't been involved very much in the Quaker-world for nearly 10 years. I hope it is natural to doubt oneself. I know experientially that I must follow where I am led. I know that I must stay connected to God. I know that I have those I worship with for support and guidance. After all we are a community and no Quaker is an island. I take heart in the responses I got when I told some of my Elders from my home meeting and some of my F/friends about agreeing to the position. I was told, "if you listen to your leadings you will lead the group well. Don't second guess those leadings because as far as I remember your spiritual direction when followed was truly that, spiritual direction" that "I should continue to follow in my grandfather's thoughtful and challenging footsteps."

I have felt God move through me before. However, it wasn't till this summer that I learned what it is to surrender to that power and to follow God's direction. It was liberating in a way. I am finally coming to a place where I am open to learning how to be God's vessel and to do God's work. I am sure I will have many mis-steps but that is what community is for, keeping you accountable, helping to guide you, and checking that you don't out run your guide.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven;

a time to be born, a time to die;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to throw away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3-3:8


Anonymous said...

I'd like to encourage you to take the time that you need for inward reflection. It's the best thing that one can do and those that rely will on you will be blessed if they respect your space during this time. It sounds like you have some sound people around you, but not everyone will understand or respect your decision. Do it anyway. It's one of the most needful things that all Christians should do periodically. I don't know if you're an introvert or not, but the new book, "Introverts in the Church" does a good job of exploring the introvert and how the introvert often has to cycle in and out of community by virtue of their makeup. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.

Linda (haven) said...

Thanks so much for this share. I am in a similar place and time.

It is not comfortable, yet totally necessary to take the time that we need to seek inwardly. Community is the balance for that, but sometimes we can confuse randomly doing for others with doing what God wants us to do.

I too encourage you to take the time you need. I hope you find what I have, that the people who are my real friends and spiritual companions are able to understand and give me that space, and to redefine the relationship to incorporate each of our growth.

I loved your image of the one who does direct civil disobedience, and the one who answers the phone.
Then there's the one who makes the plan, the one who keeps the office straightened up, the one who puts up the bail money...I could go on and on.

I hope you can laugh and love yourself during your time of digging deep as well!


James Naylor said...

Thank you both for your comments! I truly appreciate them. I have done a horrible job all my life at balancing my need for people (community) with my inward life. I do feel called to be active in my worship group, but I also know it is just as important to give myself time for inward pursuits.

Pat, I appreciate the book suggestion. It sounds wonderful. I am equally split on the Meyer-Briggs scale so I need a balance of both social and solitary time.

Thank you again!

Jenn said...

First let me say that as a stranger (but a Friend) finding your blog, your sharings are actually a real blessing and I feel speak to the greater Journey that many are walking.

Balancing between Community and Interiority are not easy at all. I'm right there with Pat -- as an introvert, I do indeed "cycle in and out of community" but having been involved with other spiritual groups before finally making my home with Friends, I think Quakers can (in some cases) provide a long-term space which allows you to do your own journey, in and outside a community.

For many of us humans, the longing to belong is an inherent part of our nature. For me, I don't think we just long to belong to a group or community of humans, but also to the wider Community (the Earth, the Universe) and its ongoing stories. Putting longing in context of the cosmos can do a lot to refocus yourself.

At the same time, it is all a process. It's now almost a year since you posted this and your path may have already lead you into a different way of experiencing and thinking. I would be interested to here what you think about your post now.

Taking the time to develop "interiority" or inner depth is SO integral to a more meaningful life anyway. And sometimes that requires setting boundaries with over-demanding friends, work, family, etc. I wouldn't judge yourself though. That feeling of bitchiness (that's what I call it in myself haha!) exists for a reason, even if its just to get your attention that you need to create more spaciousness in your life.

In the end though, even longing to belong, you will have to be your own person. We can't dissolve into the bliss of the Other and live like that. Developing depth gives you a firm footing and direction in community work -- and allows you to find your eco-spiritual "niche" in the community, so to speak. If you aren't in contact with that Inner Christ and haven't given yourself time to develop a strong and healthy relationship with yourself, then you will be impaired in your ability to give back to the community.

Sorry for the long post but in some ways I feel my experiences resonate and touch on yours too. Thank you for being willing to share to begin with!