Saturday, December 12, 2009

2nd Saturday of Advent

"I am waiting for you to breathe on me, and blow the cobwebs out of my head. Come, Lord Jesus. Without you I live in a valley of confusion."

The wee small hours of the morning again. And you're not even surprised. How predictable am I? I'm so tired. A migraine has tormented me since yesterday, and now the cold draft blowing through the room from outside makes my neck, shoulders and hands ache. But it isn't only physical pain bothering me. My wild mind is particularly untamable this morning.

I'm keenly aware of how the gospels diminish you, rather than make you greater in this world and my selfishness and desire to manipulate and control every little detail of my life is resisting this subtraction. It's more than a little scary, too. God keeps asking me to die, die, die. Not a big, urgent, terrifying, "DIE!!! DIE!!! DIE!!!" But a quiet, sweet siren song to surrender everything to his will. And I keep fighting against it, at the same time knowing that I must die, and that I will give in. I have to. I can even say to a large degree I want to. But it hurts to be a seed fallen to the ground, split open--a violent process--before the first shoot of love, of true vocation begins to emerge. Seeds are hard. Rough. Breaking them means burying them--and it's dark underground! And saturating them with water. Don't get me started on those metaphors this time of morning.

Dorothy Day is my constant companion now. I feel her soul hovering and gently prodding me to a holiness I haven't dreamed of. It isn't a big, heroic holiness, unattainable. No, it's a hidden, nobody-will-see kind of holiness. The kind that bites the tongue, ever ready with a sharp retort, and aborts an unkindness before it is born, ugly and screeching "pay attention to me." It's a holiness of constant work doing things nobody knows you're doing. And frankly, nobody cares.

I read Dorothy's diaries every night and see her offer up things like her rashes, and a host of other ordinary annoyances--she wrote about them all!--and this speaks to me of a woman who gives God everything. EVERYTHING. And even as I sense her nearness--thank God for the communion of saints--she urges me not to be like her, but to be myself. This is a self I have little experience trusting. A self I'm not even sure I like, much less want to trust or believe has the capacity to do anything good for God.

Edwina Gateley is also on my mind a lot. I'm reading her book "I Hear a Seed Growing" about the beginnings of her ministry to prostitutes, and feel ridiculously ill-equipped for this task. Again. I also feel thankful as I read. Both she and Dorothy journaled the most vivid accounts of their work, with surprising detail that encompassed so much ordinariness and so much feeling inadequate. I'm richer for their words, me with so many lofty ideas of what ministry is all about. I had it all wrong. Serving is not what what will make you greater. It's a stripping away of your ragged sense of self-importance until you can finally figure out what John the Baptist meant when he said we have to decrease, and Jesus has to increase in us.

Christ is coming. Tomorrow is the third Sunday of Advent. We're very close to Jesus' arrival now. And I can still hearing John crying from his wilderness into mine, "Prepare the way of the Lord." I'm still scrambling to get my spiritual house in order.

I'm fine when I'm fine. But right now I'm not fine. When I feel so unsettled, I find myself scratching my head going, "Doh! I didn't know this wilderness would bewilder me!" And the unrelenting questions like, "Um... how does one start a house of hospitality without a house again? Anybody know???" Because today I have no idea and everything I said the other day about it, including trusting God for it, sounds crazy. Crazier than it did that day.

I'm reading about Edwina's preparation for her ministry to prostitutes, her wilderness. She called it a retreat, but I know better. She wrote:

This is the beginning of my retreat,
I am tired and sad,
still trembling, still fragile,
knowing in my soul that
God is gentle.
But I am still a
little afraid that I might
crumble and die
if I hurt anymore.
All I can pray this evening is:
Mother God, Father God,
gather me up
in your arms - and
let me sleep....
I feel like a child
left alone in the dark too long.

A hearty amen to all of that. Maybe it's this early morning hour when sleep eludes me that's driving this post. Or maybe it's a wilderness thing. Or maybe it's me being split open for seed. I don't know. All I can say is that I'm grateful I'm not alone. You're here. And I'm glancing up from bed to where I moved St. Therese's picture--I moved her from the living room to make way for the Nativity icon. She's here. And Dorothy. And Teresa of Avila and Mother Theresa. All of them saying, "Go the little way." Even Edwina, though she's alive and well, and hopefully asleep at this hour. Her words bring her presence in my room.

I have no idea how any of the work I'm craving in my soul will be born. It's all shrouded in darkness this morning. And the only way I can bring any light to it, is to stay in the Word, pray like a dying woman, and rest in God's arms with the saints who keep urging me not to think bigger, but much, much smaller.

And wait.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

mair-francis

7 comments:

Erin Wilson said...

I had a really vivid image as I read this post, Mair. An image of flowers dying... a huge pile of flowers... which gave off the most massive sweet smell as they died.

I think there can be beauty even a those part of ourselves die. I see that in you.

ragamuffin diva said...

Wow. I'm really feeling that, Erin. I'm smelling it, too! LOL. Thank you for this.

GailNHB said...

These are the words that have hit me hardest today, Mair. "It isn't a big, heroic holiness, unattainable. No, it's a hidden, nobody-will-see kind of holiness. The kind that bites the tongue, ever ready with a sharp retort, and aborts an unkindness before it is born, ugly and screeching "pay attention to me." It's a holiness of constant work doing things nobody knows you're doing. And frankly, nobody cares."

I want people to notice and care and keep score and reward me accordingly! When will this madness end - this yearning to be seen and noticed and applauded? I'm gonna ponder this for a while, my friend, a good long while.

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

I don't think I've commented on any of your Advent posts yet. It's not because I don't like them--very, very much the opposite, in fact--but because I don't even know what to say. God is using you in my life right now, sister. You're talking about things that I'm so far from holy I wouldn't even think to think about them. I keep saying this is just a season, all this busyness and the little ones and juggling so many hats and blah blah blah. But every day I read your posts, and even though I know you're way ahead of me in the general journey of life, I get this spiritual poke in the gut that says it's time to stop making excuses. But I'm so far off the path I don't even know where to start.

Okay, so...that totally ended up being about me, and I didn't mean it to be. I just meant to tell you that you're being used right now, in a good way. :)

ragamuffin diva said...

I want people to notice me, too. In soooo many ways, Gail. But we keep giving it to Jesus with everything else, right?

And Ali, nobody is more self-absorbed than I am @ ragamuffin diva. I'm so moved you're finding something that speaks to you.

Sarah@EmergingMummy said...

I am loving this entire series. Thank you for being so honest, so real, so transparent with us and with Jesus. It's lovely to travel through Advent with you.

Kay Day said...

I am so far behind in reading these! I love them, but I misplaced my readers. LOL

This one is fabulous. So much to think about. The holiness you mentioned is so much more difficult than the grand, public kind.
Dying is so difficult.