Openness to the mystery of other people

Photo by Łukasz Łada on Unsplash

Gazing toward the brightly lit horizon the other day, I noticed an expansiveness, an opening. Beyond what I could see was a mystery. Bigger than the dances of shadows and light, the frozen November snow and the clouds hanging out their hues of pink and gray, was the power of possibility, the rise of potential.

Looking at that sky, I thought of the formations of birds I saw flying across wide open skies a few days prior. I had traveled in a car from one Midwestern city to another with my attention cycling between the other Franciscan sister near me, the wonders on the other side of the chilled glass and the condition of my own body and mind. Even though the drive was nearly a week ago, I still wonder about it. I wonder where the birds had come from and where they were going. I wonder how long it takes for them to travel their distance. I wonder if they feel exhausted. I wonder if, for them, the sky feels big.

In each moment — in each expanse — I notice that I am open to the possibilities, that I don’t have a narrow view. My mind is not made up. I am open to learning or discovering. I am open to the largeness of mystery. I feel small, and in the smallness I feel a freedom, a gladness.

And, I can see that this disposition is different from how I relate to people, myself included.

The Gospel demands that we love God, ourselves and our neighbors with all that we are. The nature of love, I am learning, is allowing the space for the other to develop. To be a mystery. To be surprised. Love lets people change and grow.

Even though there are people I’ve known for years and years, I need to resist the temptation to assume they’ll react a certain way to anything I say or do. I need to let go of expectations that they’ll be in a mood I’ve encountered before or behave how they have in the past. Although every person is allowed to live a life made of patterns and habits, it’s not my duty to subject them to any traps or predictions. I’ve realized how much I hate it when others typecast me. Why would I ever do that to anyone else?

Similarly, I am trying to free myself from traps of thinking about myself. I am learning that a way to love myself is to allow space to grow and change. This is actually part of self-acceptance, of giving God a chance to work out conversions in my mind, heart and actions. So what that I have struggled to be kind, or gentle, or punctual, or tidy in the past? Perhaps I will be surprised with ease this one time.

I am thrilled to have learned a new way to love myself and others. I am excited to discover that a grace that companions love is the freedom to learn and grown.

And, I wonder what sort of beauty I will see if I allow myself to gaze upon the mystery of each person with the same sort of openness I see in the sky?

growing through the cracks

I am thinking about cracks a lot lately.  Images of cracks keep flashing through me while I minister and live in community and try to live the Gospel and do this messy Jesus business. 

I see cracks in the sidewalks caused by the subtle shifting of the ground we know.  God is up to some amazing things and our life will not stay the same.

Sidewalk crack with green weed growing up
Image courtesy of http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/162795

   

I also imagine larger, bolder cracks from earthquake and destructive booms.  In my heart, I realize cracks inside of dark, hidden caves. 

I ponder the meaning of Christ as creator and how new things rise from destruction. I see the leaves slowly changing color, cracking from the branches and falling to the ground, fertilizing a new creation. 

I praise God for tombs of destruction cracking open to bring about great resurrections. 

And, God stretches me to more deeply accept my vocational callings.  My perspective and consciousness keeps shifting.  I am challenged to greater self-awareness and acceptance so I can be healthier and happier–fully alive with the goodness of God’s powerful love.  This means a lot of letting go and allowing the opening of my heart and mind.  As I gain greater self-awareness, my identity cracks and allows new things grow up and out of the rich soil of the God’s creation. 

I am limited, this is the reality of humanity.  My love and concern for injustice seems to keep expanding, but my love for the “wideness” of God’s universe, paradoxically invites me to acknowledge how I can only do so much. 

Sure, I am passionate about the injustices and oppression of marginalized, inner-city youth.  Yes, I am concerned about poverty and increasing non-violence skills in places where gun-fire is a daily struggle.  I was transformed and challenged by the past four years of my life, serving as an inner-city Catholic youth minister at high schools in Chicago. 

sister Julia Walsh with two high school students
I was privileged to minister with these two young men during my time in Chicago.

I loved it and hoped that I was called to work as an urban youth minister for a long time.  God, though, has created a world directed by the changing of seasons.  I was invited to let go of a ministry I loved and trusted, and moved to serve new people.  Now, I am serving youth who are much more like myself: mostly Catholic, white, middle-class and semi-rural.  I love my new ministry and am very healthy and happy in it.  I am so thankful, and amazed, as this is not something I ever imagined for myself.  God knows best. This is a much better fit and I am limited in what I can really do. 

A novel I am reading affirmed this emerging awareness.  The character is a woman who is struggling to accept her own vocation.  She writes:  “I began to accept the limitations of my life and the alteration of my aspirations, an acceptance that younger women consider weakness and surrender.  But, I found that the limitations I accepted, as youth and its dreams fell away, composed a narrow and secret passage leading to an expanse of space and liberation I had not realized existed.  I began to prefer peaceful surrender to nobel battle, for in peace is an internal freedom one never has in war, though sometimes warring is necessary for external freedom.  The disappointments were not bitter, because I was with a companion who did not turn his back on truth” (Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley).

The cracks in my life allow for new growth to spring forth.  I am so grateful that through it all, my companion is Christ, the Light of all Truth who creates all things anew. How awesome Jesus is! Amen!