Call it synergy, the turning of the ages, the leading of the Spirit, or just intuition, wishful thinking, odd timing, but I think something is happening to me that seems worth sharing—just in case the same thing should begin to happen to you.
I’m not as young as I used to be—imagine that? And I have spent a lot of my adult years doing what I had to do to be the person I figured I needed to be. Besides, I had small children, I was a single mother. I liked my work as a pastor, for the most part. And though “church” made me uncomfortable a lot of the time (and still does), that was my culture, even if it wasn’t my home.
But for the past few years I’ve been standing—first on one foot and then on the other—at a crossroads, career-wise. I left ministry in order to write, but I still can be seen Sunday mornings, filling in here or there. In order to write I’ve done pick-up teaching here or there, earning an adjunct’s salary without great complaint.
I’ve finished a memoir and a novel, amassed a bunch of agent rejection letters, gotten bits published in this or that small journal, started a blog, spent too much time on Facebook and not enough in the yoga studio.
And slowly I’ve begun to realize the urge the molt. And I’m not even sure what that means.
Now, I don’t read much in the way of spiritual writing or self-help literature. It just doesn’t speak to me. Or maybe it’s that I speak about spiritual and literary matters myself with a voice of authority validated by a couple of graduate degrees. Nobody’s got anything to tell me that I want to hear.
So why did I buy Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life last year? After all, it’s written by a white, male priest in his sixties. What could he have to say to me?
No wonder I didn’t pick up the book until a couple of weeks ago. But when I did, I found something different, something that did, in fact, speak to me. And to the restlessness that has me hopping from foot to foot but never leaving the crossroad where I’ve been self-stranded.
“The supposed achievements of the first half of life have to fall apart and show themselves to be wanting in some way or we will not move further,” Rohr writes, “There is a deeper voice of God, which you must learn to hear and obey in the second half of life. It will sound an awful lot like the voices of risk, or trust, of surrender, of soul . . . of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self. The true journey only begins at this point. Up to now everything is mere preparation.”
I don’t know what that all means exactly, except the more I read of Falling Upward, the more I’m convinced I’m doing it, gravity be damned.
But then, just as I think I’ve found one white, male, older man from whom I can learn something, another one comes along, just like that! I checked him out of the library in the form of the Teaching Company’s audio disc course, “Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life.”
I’m a Teaching Company junkie—it’s like college in the car without the papers or even the reading. So easy. But this course is unlike any of the others. Prof. J. Rufus Fears, in a mild voice with a southern drawl, doesn’t just discuss famous books; he somehow massages them for meaning and encourages his hearers to apply this meaning to their own lives. It’s a very subjective teaching style and seems more about reading books as moral or philosophical guides than as works of art, which he invariably stresses, too.
Beginning with the German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wending his way through Homer and a dizzying array of writers and works, Fears fervently believes that literature teaches living.
So here I am at the crossroads, waiting for Life to disclose some Meaning and all of a sudden I seem to have discovered, if not Meaning, then a kind of compass that will allow me to move forward, not knowing what I’ll find, but at least with some sense of direction.
At least I hope that’s what’s happening. Fingers crossed.
Richard Rohr: “We almost naturally float forward by the quiet movement of grace when the time is right—and the old agenda shows itself to be insufficient, or even falls apart. All that each of us can do is to live in the now that is given.”