This past weekend, my family and I drove north of Phoenix to Lake Pleasant. My daughters watched as their dad and I set up the family-sized tent. The temperature when we got there Friday afternoon hovered in the upper 90's Fahrenheit. The heat crawled up our legs and arms and down our backs. Before long we were settling down at our shaded picnic table to drink cold water and eat trail mix. There was nothing we had to do, nowhere we had to be. We just were.
The next morning, I rose with the sun and stepped down the hill to the lake. This is what I saw.
And I couldn't help thanking Thea for creation's wonders and the tiny role I get to play in them.
Part of my spiritual practice includes lectio divina, or sacred reading. I read a few verses from scripture at a time and ponder them in order to hear God's voice speaking through them. Today I read in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, "This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." It's so familiar from Christmastime that its oddness almost escapes notice. Why would God's sign to the world be a just-born infant wrapped up like the dead, laid in a feeding trough for large animals? Why would a bunch of sheep-herders run at the chance to see this so-called sign? If you don't know that this child is destined from his birth for death, the mummy look doesn't make sense. If you don't know that by losing his life, this child will become food for all who hunger, this doesn't make sense. How can this bizarre telling of a child's birth make any sense without knowing the whole story that is to come? What signs and wonders does God leave for me to see that I don't yet understand? How do I develop the imagination to see what they could mean and to strive for what God is setting in motion?
I began reading Sr. Joan Chittister's Following the Path yesterday, and in it I found a helpful distinction between pursuing delight and pursuing happiness. Sr. Joan says we need both if we are to remain faithful to the path we are called to, but they each have to be held in balance with one another. To pursue delight is to do something that breaks the routine of one's day and offers a sweet burst of enjoyment. One's delight is something other than what one does all the day long. If one did this delightful thing all the day long, it would quickly become mundane, boring, and unfulfilling. To pursue happiness, on the other hand, is to embrace that which has been calling out to us since we were children. It's to dig deep into ourselves, to notice what draws us like a magnet, and to allow ourselves to be drawn into that whole-heartedly. Whatever that is may be hard or even seem impossible, but after we set aside what everyone--self included--thinks we ought (or ought not) to do, it's that thing that our heart most deeply and completely yearns for.
As I prepare to share my spiritual autobiography with my discernment committee for the priesthood, I find myself nodding at what Sr. Joan writes. My heart has been drawing me toward priesthood my whole life, even though my faith tradition always told me that priesthood for women was out of the question. It's now, in a tradition that can whole-heartedly embrace my call, that I can whole-heartedly embrace my call. And you know that feeling you get when a great mystery is suddenly revealed? The goosebumps? The thrill of wonder and recognition? That's how recognizing and naming my call to priesthood manifests.
What more will I discover about my call as I continue to attend to the yearnings of my heart?