silence, summer, and accepting my own wounds like Jesus does...

In his little book, The Heart of L'Arche: a Spirituality for Every Day, Jean Vanier packs a lot of wisdom. I have highlighted over one hundred paragraphs in this slim 87 page gem - and hundreds of other sentences and phrases, too. One that particularly resonates appears close to the end:

It takes a long time to discover unity in ourselves so that we can be a source of unity for others; to welcome our wounds so that we can welcome those of others. It takes a long time to drop our masks and accept ourselves as we are with all our limitations, so that we can accept others. To carry on walking down this road, we need to be attentive to God's call and Jesus' promises, and to make choices that bring with them the acceptance of loss. (p. 81)

This summer is more than half over. Tomorrow is the first of August and Labor Day is just around the corner.  As I cut the grass this afternoon to get some perspective on my worship notes for this coming Sunday, I became aware of how ripe this season has become: The sweet corn is at its peak, the day lilies have come and gone, the golden rod is beginning to peek through the grape vines in the wetlands, and the sun is a bit lower in the evening sky. I cherish the bounty of summertime, but felt a stab of melancholia as well for soon the abundance will be over. Fall is sacred and glorious in its own way, and I revel in the colors, the pumpkins and the crisp air. But I was startled with sadness as I felt its coming loss. I think Parker Palmer got it right when he wrote:

Summer is the season when all the promissory notes of autumn, winter, and spring come due, and each year the debts are repaid with compound interest. In summer, it is hard to remember that we had ever doubted the natural process, had ever ceded death the last word, had ever lost faith in the powers of new life. Summer is a reminder that our faith is not nearly as strong as the things we profess to have faith in - a reminder that for this sing season, at least, we might cease our anxious machinations and give ourselves to the abiding and abundant grace of our common life.

Perhaps because I have been celebrating three spiritual prayer commitments as a way to grow closer to God's grace at the core of our summer worship, I am a little more aware of my inconsistencies today. If I hadn't known it before, it has become clear that when I skip two full days of quiet contemplation, I become snappish and a bit of a bore. That these traits pop up so quickly in my words and actions is humbling but equally frustrating. They have long been a part of my dreaded shadow self, but it is clear that Vanier is right: it takes a long time - and for my case apparently a life time - to welcome my wounds with enough tenderness that I can consistently honor another's. That I so quickly forget the peace that passes understanding when I stay grounded is equally appalling. And yet it happens over and over and over again.

In the gospel for Sunday, Jesus slips away from the crowds one night for some quiet contemplation only to be followed. When his quiet is violated, he looks upon his people, the text says, and he has compassion for them and heals their sicknesses. One of the prayer commitments we are practicing this summer is interrupting our day at least 3 or 4 times with a smart phone chime acting like a monastery's call to prayer. I make the sign of the Cross and say out loud: I am God's beloved for all time. Some days I actually feel that this is true. So once again I return into the silence to learn to accept my wounds the way Christ does - with compassion.


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