The old advice that one tells others what one needs to hear oneself has proved true for me lately. In several conversations, in person and over e-mail, I have advised others not to move too quickly toward resolution in their spiritual lives but to allow themselves to be disoriented. Disorientation, I assured them, is a creative place where we can allow our assumption about who we are and who God is to fade into the background so that we can be surprised. I told them stories about the Israelites in the wilderness who wanted to return to Egypt because it was familiar and who had to be remade in the desert before they were prepared for their land of milk and honey.
The word disorientation had come up enough times in the last week that it began to stand out to me. I had that sinking feeling in my gut that I was the one who needed to move more deeply into his own disorientation.
For the moment, all the dust is kicked up in my life. I have recently taken on new responsibilities in the monastic community. While these new roles allow me to engage my creativity in different ways, the weight of their demands doesn’t yet feel natural. I’m having to learn again how to find the balance between work, prayer, study, and quiet. This struggle is also allowing me once again to look at old patterns that assure me my value in productivity rather than being.
I’m also neck-deep in a long writing project. It’s work that I feel utterly compelled into. It’s life-giving, creative, deeply personal, and healing. At the same time, it demands a lot of me and is taking me to places I wasn’t sure I had any interest in going. Old, old feelings arise as I write, and I am learning to thank God that I’m now alive and awake enough to experience those feelings.
I see the choice before me: to reassure myself that everything is okay and that life will go on as it always has before, or to choose consciously to walk forward into my own disorientation, trusting, not that God will lead me to the same place I was before, but that God will likely shatter my comfortable certainties and will then put those fragments back together. This is certainly not the first time I’ve walked through a kind of wilderness.
At times like these I am thankful for my guides, past and present. One of these people recently said to me that I have a rich inner life. I thought for a moment and responded that I have done a lot of work to have that life, but that I’ve also been extraordinarily fortunate to have people, places, and opportunities that have provided the capaciousness for that life to emerge and blossom.
I am alive today in ways that I was not three, five, ten years ago. And this present disorientation is both a result of that aliveness and an invitation to enter it more fully. Yet again, I find myself saying “yes.”
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