When it comes to failure, believe me when I say that I’ve had my fair share. The challenge, however, is how we acknowledge that we’re in the valley of calamity–whether we react out of the ego or respond in the Spirit.
So, how can you find redemption in the “F” word when you can’t even acknowledge it? When all you feel is shame? When you are too busy denying it to take advantage of the opportunity to learn any lessons from it? The answer is plain and simple…YOU CAN’T. You can’t find redemption in what you do not acknowledge, cannot accept, and as a result will not grow from. I know this for a fact.
Like breadcrumbs leading us back home, the sign posts along the way to sacred purpose come in many sizes, shapes, and forms. They appear in the midst of diverse challenges, experiences, and occurrences. And for me, they appeared this week as I participated in Charleston’s Moja Arts Festival for the very first time ever.
No matter how many seasons of disorientation and transition I go through, there seems to consistently be one question at the center of the experience, “Whose life are you living?” The first time this question rose to the surface of my consciousness was at least 17 years ago. I remember being rudely awakened in the middle of the night with a strong sense of anxiety as this plaguing question came to mind. At the time, I was married, living in the District of Columbia, and working in corporate America. From the outside, it appeared as if I was living a pretty normal life, and all that I needed to make it sheer perfection was to have 2.3 kids. That was the societal expectation that I had fallen prey to as the “default” path without ever deeply knowing whether that was the right path for me nor whether it was the right time, even if it was the right path.
Oftentimes, when we are in the unsettled and uncertain state of disorientation, we become highly susceptible to making bad decisions that have the potential to derail and devalue us. A wise mother of the church once told me that I should not make decisions when I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired–which cleverly forms the acronym halt. However, being hungry, angry, lonely, tired or any of their close cousins is quite possible during a time of disorientation. As someone who was jokingly but accurately dubbed the Director of Transition several years ago, I know that we must be especially vigilant during times of disorientation. I have also learned to look for and embrace the lessons that life offers in general, but especially during periods of transition.
Disorientation presents an opportunity for us to view things from a different vantage point. It creates space for us to see and acknowledge how oftentimes we invest our time and energy in the very things that hinder us. This gives us a chance to make some critical choices about what we must let go, because what we invest our time and energy in, is where our heart is and where our life follows. Life has taught me that time is the one resource that we all get allotted equally–24 hours in each day, and we make choices not only about how we spend our time, but how we invest our energy. We either choose to use our energy to acknowledge or to avoid, to heal or to harbor, to let go or to languish.
The intention, the motivation, the heart of this Lenten Safari is to arrive at a place of reorientation that allows us to embody the life we were created to live. However, when our orientation is a bit off and we put in an order for reorientation, we must be ready for disorientation, because it will be on the menu. This process of disorientation, which includes the discomfort of change, has to be embraced at the heart level. Change is never easy as “the only people that like change are wet babies” according to a well-known saying. So, during this disorientation process, it is essential to engage at the heart level with clear intentions and an openness to change.
According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” It is where we harbor the weeds of bitterness, resentment, jealousy, self-pity, self-centeredness, unforgiveness, anger, pride, arrogance, fear, hatred, and hopelessness–just to name a few. However, the heart also has the capacity to bear the fruits of the Spirit such as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control .” (Galatians 5:22-23) It is up to us to determine which we will allow to flourish, and we can be assured that God knows the difference, for in answer to the question in Jeremiah about who can know the heart, the response was “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” That is why Proverbs 4:23 cautions us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Guarding the heart and doing regular self-examinations of the heart are essential and ongoing processes, and sometimes it is in the wilderness while God has our full attention, that God wants to do an intensive de-weeding, a spiritual angioplasty, a pruning–if you will, so we can be more authentically who we be.
Now, in following the Spirit, there is always a time to come and a time to go, and I try to pay attention to the signs so that I don’t miss my exit. For in order to hear Spirit and not the random opinions of the crowd or your own insecurities, you may have to be silent and attentive to the myriad of ways in which Spirit speaks to know when to come and when to go. In coming here, I saw a job announcement on Facebook within seconds of my friend Clarissa (who would become the project’s new Executive Director) posting it, and I was led to investigate the opportunity. I went through the interviewing and screening process in November 2014 which ended in an invitation to begin service in March 2015 and in a need to raise about $10,000 per year to supplement the small stipend that volunteers received. At the time, I had no idea how it would all come together, but I knew from experience that where God gives vision, God also gives provision. Therefore, I said yes to Guatemala without having an airline ticket, monthly supporters, and not even 1% of my $12,000 annual budget.
As God has promised not to leave us comfortless, the true essence of who I be that transcends race, culture, and relationship status was not deprived of the bonds of family defined by our connection to Spirit. This brings to mind my grandmother’s certain but comedic way of discerning folks. If she did not like what she discerned, she would say, “my spirit don’t agree with” him or her. And just like everywhere else I have been, I have found those with whom my spirit “don’t agree” in Guatemala, as well as those with whom my spirit does agree–my extended spiritual family. In this family, there are no hierarchies or boundaries that separate but only the Spirit who unifies. So, although I arrived in Guatemala without a defined support system, I did know the three people that the Spirit used to get me here–the executive director, her husband, and their son–and while I’ve been here, the Spirit has connected me to an extended spiritual family.