“To lend each other a hand when we’re falling, perhaps that’s the only work that matters in the end.”
Frederick Buechner, Brendan: A Novel
“It feels like everything is unravelling.” My words. Spoken despondently in the presence of my spiritual director, Jack, twelve days past. I had - we had - attended so diligently to the discernment of this season as one of vocational transition and, as plans progressed, so many details had come into agreement. It was a beautiful symmetry, and I embraced it as a confirmation that I was on the right path. And now, as the tidal wave of COVID-19 washed over the planet, my plans were coming undone and I was falling into despair.
Attentive to my lament, Jack gently invited me to take a “long loving look” at the real and to “investigate my worry with compassion.” As he accompanied me on this journey, I began recognizing and releasing my attachment to the symmetry of the details. This journey, which continues as I write, is now creating a spaciousness that is allowing me to reconnect with the heart of my desire and the essence of the Spirit’s call, while untangling the truth from my need to find confirmation in external circumstances.
I offer my story with hope that it might encourage you in this season. Things are unravelling. For each of us uniquely. And all of us, together. As this virus moves among us, much of what we have called “normal” is, at least in this present moment, no more. And as practices of gathering and making physical contact are suspended, we are untangling the truth: We need each other. Always. And our hearts desire connection. Particularly when things are coming undone. Because, left to our own devices, we can so easily lose sight of the real by becoming all tangled up in external attachments.
I invite you, now, to slow down and linger over the image I have included here. Depicting a gentle moment shared by my grandson and his best friend, it invites us into a reflection around our life together. If you will, I offer a meditative practice of sacred seeing inspired by Clare of Assisi. Sitting quietly, with the image before you, journey for the next several minutes through these movements:
Gaze: Rest your eyes on what you see and allow the image to still you.
Consider: What is the image inviting in you? What do you glimpse of God here? Do you sense a challenge or a call?
Contemplate: Move beyond observation. Be still and present to God, who is present with you.
Imitate: Relying on the Spirit’s presence, resolve to live into God’s invitation.
Beloved child of God, I encourage you to travel with others in this time of unravelling. Employing every safe method at your disposal, connect, communicate, commune. (The spiritual direction session mentioned above, for which I am so grateful, took place via Zoom). Invite others to come alongside and engage in the soul-sustaining work of listening with compassion and looking long and lovingly into that which is real. Please know that, for my part, I am both open to and honored by the opportunity to accompany you on such a journey. Let’s hold the umbrella of compassionate presence together. This is, in the words of Buechner’s Brendan, perhaps the only work that matters.
With you in the Unravelling, Jeff