Last night, talk turned, as it often does this time of year, to resolutions. If your resolution is to have a more spiritual life, you are not alone.
But what does that mean? More prayer? A retreat? Discernment about life shifts? Putting more of your efforts towards the service of God's vision?
Where do we want to be on Dec. 31, 2014?
In past years, I've wanted to pray more, to keep a spiritual journal of some sort, or to adopt another spiritual discipline. I'm still not as good at tithing as I would like to be. My thoughts are never far from discernment, as there are many days when I just cannot believe that God intends me to have my particular life. Surely I could be of more use in a different setting?
But maybe it's precisely in this setting setting that God needs me. My workplace is full of anxiety about the future, as I imagine many halls of higher education are these days. For much of the day, every day, I am surrounded by people who are upset, people who are sorrowful, people who spend their hours haunted by worst case scenarios. I turn on the TV, and it's more of the same. Even moving through the world eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers, I hear negativity and doubt and suspicion.
The great English poet Keats would have called it "a vale of soul-making."
My goal this year is more simple and infinitely harder than past goals. I want to refuse to participate in fear mongering. I want to believe the best of people, that people are trying hard and doing all that they're capable of. I am amazed at how often people are willing to believe the worst, whether it be of our coworkers, our legislators, our people in power, everyone else who is out of power. Do we really believe that people are out to wreck our societal institutions? Do we really believe that people are shirking their responsibilities, all the time, every day? Do we really believe that people are showing up with the intention to avoid doing quality work?
What would happen if I just refused to engage in the outrage? I've spent years pointing out possible better case scenarios. I don't change anyone's mind.
Let the fear mongering and suspicion go on without me. Let others sow the seeds of despair. That weed is one that has been running too rampant in my garden as of late. It's time to plant some different seeds.
And when I hear people engaging in that behavior, let it serve as a tolling bell to remind me to pray for everyone in difficult circumstances.
And let me always remember the life lesson that I learned from watching the end decades of the life of Nelson Mandela. Sometimes, the worst situations, like apartheid, look intractable. Some years, a civil war looks inevitable.
And then, there are years when the prison doors swing open and great minds can form a new creation like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Let me side with that force of history.
feeling the feelings…
9 months ago