Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Sensing Lent 12: Onion
I'm persevering with my Lent book, Falling Upward, by American Franciscan and Catholic priest, Richard Rohr, about the spiritual task of the later years of life.
You can tell Rohr has written the book in a hermitage - it's long on wisdom distilled from years of personal walking with God, but short on other people's experiences, having virtually no examples of how people are actually growing into the second half of their lives, with the spirituality needed to do this well. There's a feeling in his writing that everything he says is probably true, but is largely unsubstantiated. It wouldn't pass as spiritual/sociological research. But them I'm sure he wouldn't care at all about that anyway. There's just the wise voice of experience, saying basically the same thing 500 ways.
But two things have chimed with me so I'm sure he's onto something, and one of them made me think of an onion.
1. At one point he says that in the 'second half of life', we make friends with our loneliness and embrace our solitude.
This has been true for me. When I first started being a Curate I really didn't like the amounts of working alone it seemed to entail. I used to try and fill the silence with activity. I constantly imagined groups that would miraculously support me without me having to drive miles across a huge Diocese to find them, or scenarios where I didn't have to play diary contortions to get together with colleagues, who all had different days off from each other. Sometimes support happened, but when it didn't, I just got on with befriending the solitude.
By and by I got used to being alone, and now I actually enjoy it. It would seem it's integral to processing everything that happens in ministry. And that's even before you pray about ministry. A perfect day is one with face to face stuff but time to be alone and process as well.
2. Linked to the above, he says that the more of life we live, the less stimulation we need and the more call there is to go deeper into the meaning of the few things that have happened to us.
It's like an onion - you just keep peeling back the layers. And there may be tears. After a morning spent out and about with people, hearing different stories, I can think of so many ways to read these stories, to take them to God: sociological, psychological, physiological, medical, theological, pastoral, poetic, etc. I seem to need more and more time to delve deeper, to see where the Spirit is at work in people and situations. That is why, though I'm getting busier, I'm developing a horror of busyness, in case I miss something spiritually significant. Journalling helps. Sometimes I read back an entry and think 'Ah, I missed that...'
There's a conundrum here - the more things you get involved in, the less time you have to reflect but the more time you really need to reflect.
Maybe by the end of the book I'll find out what the answer is. Meanwhile I'll keep peeling.