As a fan of Henri Nouwen, I already owned “Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life.” It was fun to open it back up and re-read my highlights, pondering how they might be prevalent to where I am today.
It’s hard for me to separate discernment of my travel to London without including why I am going to be there. I will be in London because I was accepted into a doctorate program and chose this track of study. Having finished a Spiritual Formation degree recently, it might make more sense for me to choose a different track, but that wouldn’t make sense for who I am. Integrating different cultures into my studies make sense for me.
I also happen to be a fan of Parker Palmer so I love that Nouwen included a quote of his, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am” (97). This has been my lifelong question. Who am I and what does that have to do with my life as it is now? Ultimately, I realize that I became a Life Coach and Spiritual Director because of that one question, but the core of who I am is an artist. I have been a graphic designer/art director for many years and then entered into bible college and my life took a turn. But did it? That’s what I’ve learned in my seminary experience. Maybe that was the greater plan all along. Maybe that’s why I sense God’s whisper of art theologian. I have no idea how this will turn out, but I’m open.
It is this quote that stopped me in my tracks, “God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it” (99). How do I approach London without discerning who I am and getting out of my head? Rosa Parks said it so eloquently, “Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” A few years ago, I visited the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in Seattle, WA and had the pleasure and honor of sitting next to the Acting President, Derek McNeil. I didn’t know his role before entering into a conversation with him. I mentioned that I was an artist that wanted to make sense of theology as an artist, especially as a biracial woman. He responded gently, “Your role is so needed. It is a marginalized role and it is not an easy journey, but the Church needs artists.” It’s always fascinated me how God always drops a person into my path at the right time to impart words that I need to hear. It was the charge that I needed to move forward.
The blessing that Nouwen gave, “I want you to remember who you are: a very special person, deeply loved by God and all the people who are here with you” (135) was so touching. This benediction is something I hope for myself and each of my cohort mates knows and understands. I also pray that everyone in London and beyond knows that they are special and deeply loved by God.
As I step into my true identity as the Beloved and a woman who is also a life learner, I trust that although I wrestled with God about being here, I am meant to be here. I also take with me Nouwen’s words of look, stay and share as I continue to discern my journey. As I pray and marinate on how my time in London will shape me and how I can be culturally sensitive, I hope that I will be reminded to look for, stay present and share – not just by talking but by being present. I share by being present.
As I venture into space and time held for my cohort and others to convene, I ask God to open my heart, ears and eyes to see what I am meant to see and hear. It is no mistake that this group of people have been appointed to this cohort for this time. There is no way for me to discern how each of us got to say “yes” to a doctorate program other than God is with me (and us) and knows what I need in order to be challenged and loved, all in one.
This blessing from “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings” by John O’Donohue is titled A New Beginning (13-14). I hope it blesses others as it opens my heart to God in this season.
“In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”