astonished

Exactly a week ago I had a dream that struck me as a call to action. In the dream I was in an enormous space, sort of like a hotel-cum-airport. There were people everywhere. I was trying to find a bathroom that was unoccupied, because I really had to poop. Everywhere I looked, though, there were people. I finally found a place to do my business, but no sooner had I taken a seat, than the walls lifted from around me, and I was in the middle of the central room of this building. Because of the clothing I was wearing, no one could tell that I was sitting on a toilet. They all broke out in some kind of celebratory dance and encouraged me to join in. But I couldn’t without revealing the throne I was sitting on.

The psyche is quite literal sometimes. And when working with dreams, it helps to have a good sense of humor. As I sat with the dream, I was struck by the contrast between the celebration and my embarrassment that others might know I poop, too. The call from my deeper Self, it seemed, was to work out my shit in a more public forum, to leave behind the embarrassment at my humanity and join the dance.

Last week’s post on my dilemma with the rewrite of my ethics essay was one attempt to do that. The result astounded me. I wrote as honestly as I could, trying not to conceal my resentment, anger, self-pity, or arrogance. The act of being honest about my challenges in a more public way freed me up to listen carefully to the Spirit speaking through all of you.

In a wonderful synchronicity, my mother had e-mailed me the previous day to remind me that when I was a child my favorite words were “no” and “why.” It turns out they still are. Some of you shared your own resentment at the corporate culture of the Church and the need to move more deeply into lives of prayer and hospitality. These comments reminded me that I’m not alone in my frustrations. Others of you offered extremely helpful perspectives on how I might actually combine the two approaches I had set against one another, gently encouraging me to see the way forward.

All of these moments softened my anger so that I could truly listen when I received an extraordinary e-mail. One of you who I know somewhat, but not especially well, wrote me that in my resentment I had unwittingly set up an either/or situation, which is, in fact, the complete negation of the contemplative stance I was trying to cultivate. In words that were gentle but direct, this person outlined with a precision I can only call the work of the Holy Spirit both the struggle I was engaged in and the prayerful way forward. This e-mail astonished me, particularly because it was if this writer were speaking to me from my own heart. To paraphrase the Gospel of John, she told me everything I had ever done.

To all of you, THANK YOU! I have rewritten my essay in a way that, I think, both satisfies my desire to speak of the contemplative heart of Christianity and also the need to discuss how to live ethically from that heart. But more importantly, I have learned a tremendous lesson in the value of community and the importance of celebrating the messy parts of my own humanity. I can’t find all the answers on my own. The good news is, I don’t have to. There is an astonishing wisdom in our collective knowing, if I have ears to hear it.


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