So, I’m starting off the blogging re-introduction with a new series based entirely on something I’m in the process of learning. It feels like a major risk to write my way through something I haven’t learned yet — so many of the series here on Still Forming have been written on topics I’ve worked my way through at some point in the journey and then came here to share with you.
But this one’s different. This one’s being written as I’m living it.
But you know what I realized shortly after the recognition that I should probably write my way through this (and the consequent freak-out that followed)? That the two most recent series on this site — the body series and the series on beginning the work again — were also written this way. So I guess I’ve been getting used to writing my way through learning curves more than I realized this year.
Even so, it feels super vulnerable to do this.
It’s my hope that as I write my way through this, you’ll find something helpful or valuable to your own current journey. And maybe along the way, you’ll have insights to share with me too — I would welcome insights shared from your own experience on this subject!
So, here’s what the new series is about.
I’ve learned over the past four years or so that part of my vocation is that of a contemplative and that my natural rhythm is rather slow and still, and I have made it a priority to align the reality of my life with those truths. I shared a series with you last year on the subject of living a rhythmed life, and I still stand by the value and helpfulness of living one’s life this way. I would still be living that way right now if it weren’t for the way God is directing me otherwise, at least for this current season of my life.
And therein lies the rub: God is directing me otherwise in this current season of my life.
For the last six months or so, I have struggled to find a rhythm that rings true to my most natural rhythm. The extended periods of stillness and quiet I’ve known and cultivated the last several years are gone. I rarely have the chance to sit in stillness and quiet reflection and prayer at my desk anymore.
My vocation as a contemplative feels like it’s gone missing, and I have been mourning this and feeling distressed about it ever since I noticed the change.
Last week, I met with my spiritual director, Elaine, and shared with her the frustration I’m facing in this. And as she always does, she invited me to take this frustration to God in prayer.
As I did so, I saw God and I walking along a beach shoreline together. It looked to be about five in the afternoon, and the sand along the shoreline was soft and cold and wet. We were barefoot, walking slowly together, and I knew God already held a knowledge of the disorientation and frustration I’ve been feeling about this, as well as my not knowing what to do about it.
That’s when he said something new.
“You’ve been dependent on external circumstances to form your sense of identity,” he said. “But now it’s time to go deeper. It’s time for that identity of stillness to be found on the inside of you.”
In other words, it’s time to learn something new.
I understood God to be saying in this moment that my circumstances aren’t going to change. Unlike previous seasons when I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of sync with my true rhythm, this isn’t about discerning if commitments or structures in my life need to change. Rather, it’s my relation to the things already in my life that will change.
I’ll be honest: I felt frustrated by this revelation. I love the spaciousness and quiet I’d cultivated in my lifestyle the last four years. I thirst for it, and I feel quite wonky when life doesn’t provide room for it. And here God was telling me I’m not going to have that spaciousness and quiet for the foreseeable future. Things will continue to swirl and move, but my relation to all of it is going to somehow change.
Somehow I’m going to learn to carry a sense of stillness inside me no matter the external circumstances. That external rhythm of quiet and contemplation I’ve come to love and need in my life is going to go internal instead. I’m going to become less dependent on my external circumstances to find that quiet and peace.
I’m going to learn to carry stillness.
So, that’s what the new series is about: learning to carry stillness.
Have you had to learn this at some point in your life? What did you learn along the way?