Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
It hasn’t escaped me — the parallel between what’s happening in my life and this current season of Advent. Both are marked by expectant waiting and preparation. Of hope and anticipation in the darkness.
But my experience seems to be lasting a lot longer than one season!
Since my last post, I’ve made it back to El Paso. With a writing assignment waiting for me at the Columban Missions’ border ministry, I didn’t want to “wait it out” any longer at my cousin’s until housing for volunteers became available. So, I decided to make a couple of calls. An El Paso friend took me in for two nights, and then I moved back temporarily with the School Sisters of St. Francis, where I lived when I started this journey at the beginning of the year. It may sound funny, but I’ve slept in so many places over these past several months, it’s been hard to keep track.
Guess it’s not unusual I’d be feeling displaced, uprooted, unsettled. Yet again.
And I’d not anticipated the sadness I’d feel upon leaving Incarnate Word Missionaries and the deep connections I’ve made there. Sometimes I think I’m too old for all this uprooting and moving around. This lack of routine and daily schedules. This inability to anticipate what’s ahead on the path. Even in the slightest next step. It requires a keen watchfulness. An attentiveness to the clues — signs visible only to my spiritual senses.
Seeing as it’s Advent, I was reflecting on another journey: the journey of a couple who, many years ago, also found themselves uprooted, displaced, and wandering. The young wife, pregnant with her first child, traveling away from home, her mother, her midwife, all that was familiar, was guided only by her new husband and the hope of a promise, which, to tell the truth, hadn’t been laid out very clearly. All she knew was her willingness to respond to a call she didn’t fully understand.
That’s really the metaphor for Mary’s life, isn’t it? How one’s willingness to say yes to the unknown, to something that doesn’t make sense in a logistical, material world, gives birth to something well beyond our expectations? Something that can only be envisioned in the imagination. The place where Spirit is experienced, and born.
I know I often have.
Franciscan Richard Rohr’s reflections this week have been on “Presence.” He’s been reminding me exactly what I need to be aware of — the Presence in this moment I am living. Not in the moment I am waiting for around the next bend when everything, hopefully, will become clearer.
“The key to all spirituality,” Rohr writes, is to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive.”
To know that I have everything I need in this moment.
I had one of those “a-ha” awakening moments a few weeks ago while staying at Alison’s house in the suburbs of San Antonio — yet another temporary abode. One morning, as I searched among my half-unpacked belongings for something to wear, feeling frustrated over the constant moving and trying to find a place to land, I said aloud, “This can’t be my life!”
It felt so crazy.
But then I paused. And a new thought slipped right in.
“But this is my life! And it’s OK! It’s perfectly fine just as it is. I don’t need to wait for it to be anything different. I’m serving my purpose right where I am.”
Just for a moment I felt as though I had awakened. It’s not that I won’t go back to sleep. I need reminders. Be alert! Stay awake! Be present to your own life!
And know that it is good, just as it is, however it shows up. Because that’s where God is.
Sure, I’d like to have more clarity about where I’m going. Assurance that I’m making the right decisions. But even more, I want a deeper awareness of this abiding Presence. An awareness of this Love guiding all my choices.
Rohr says, “This is what it means to be awake: to be constantly willing to say that God could even be coming to me in this! Even in this!”
Even in the things I don’t like or don’t understand. Even in what I would prefer to change. Or at least be able to anticipate.
Like Mary, can I recognize and hope in the Presence that abides in me? In the here and now? As I wonder and I wait?