Start me up...

For the next few months I will be shifting my focus from my recent theological reflections to
things more immediate: we are TRULY into the sabbatical's first phase - and getting ready to get outta Dodge tomorrow morning. Saying goodbye to Lucie for three weeks was sad. She is such a loving screwball. For about an hour last night she sat and slept on my lap just like she used to do as a puppy. The house is always a little less real when she departs...Before bed last night I read this reflection that spoke to this moment in time for me:

When we know something and rest in that knowing we limit our vision. We will only see what our knowing will allow us to see. In this way our experience can be our enemy. True, our experience has shown us something about ourselves and about life. But this moment, this situation that faces us right now - this patient, this person, this family, this illness, this task, this pain or beauty - we have never seen it before. What is it? How do we respond? I don't know. I bow before the beauty and uniqueness of what I am facing. 

Not knowing, I am ready to be surprised, ready to listen and understand, ready to respond as needed, ready to let others respond, ready to do nothing at all, if that is what is called for. I can be informed by my past experience but it is much better if I am ready and able to let that go, and just be present, just listen, just not know. Experience, knowledge, wisdom - these are good, but when I examine things closely I can see that they remove me from what's in front of me. When I know, I bring myself forward, imposing myself and my experience on this moment. When I don't know, I let experience come forward and reveal itself. 

I think that is why I love road trips so much: there is both a measure of certainty within the car - I love to start out with my own tunes and having an automated map is a great help, too - but total surprise arrives once we hit the open road, turn off the GPS or start to wander the "blue highways" of this great land. Who knows who we'll meet? Who knows where we'll sleep tonight? Or what music we might hear? Or where the next bookstore or eccentric diner might pop up? So, it did my heart good when Di woke up today and said, "Let's head out a day early, ok?" 

In a world filled with trouble, moving into sabbatical time is filled with paradox. It is highly personal and subjective - not obviously connected to the on-going wounds of race and class currently ripping apart our cities - and has nothing to do with any compassionate response to the chaos and pain in Nepal. This past Sunday I spoke of the woman who poured perfumed oil upon the head of Jesus - and the crowd's ugly and self-righteous response - such resources should not be wasted when there is poverty and suffering all around us. To which Jesus replies: there will always be times for sharing compassion, but not always time for reflection and contemplation. She has done a beautiful thing for the Lord.

Merton put it like this:  It is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity... We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have - for their usefulness.

It is in humility and gratitude that we start out on this journey into the unknown.  We pray today for safety and surprise, a measure of grace and the chance to meet Christ along the way. When the girls were small, we used to start every road trip with "Start Me Up" by the Stones! Sounds like a plan for today, too.  I will keep you posted.  


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