As I write this note to you, our big black cat Solomon is sitting on the floor next to me, purring his heart out and staring up at me with his huge yellow-gold eyes, occasionally chirping for affection.
He’s never been that affectionate toward me — really, Kirk is the object of his hero worship — but in the last month or so, he’s become more sweet, coming to sit on the couch next to me and asking me to scratch his ears and chin. Insistent affection from a formerly uninterested 25-pound fur ball? I’ll take it!
So, that’s the scene in which I find myself writing this week’s letter to you. And I wonder: What is the scene in which you’re reading it?
Today I’m also wondering if you have any growing edges at work in your life. What are “growing edges,” you ask? They’re what I call those places we know we’re being invited to grow. The places in active operation. The places God is currently forming us.
By way of example, I’ll share a new growing edge that showed up in my life this week.
I would say the last four years of my life have been spent coming into a greater understanding of my vocation as a contemplative and seeking to align that truth of who I am with the way I live. This has, at times, led to changes in my work life, outside commitments, and even the way I shop for groceries each week. Living in alignment with my inner and outer world has become a very important part of my life the last four years, and I even have a name for it: I call it “living a rhythmed life.”
(I wrote a series about this concept, which you can access here.)
But for the last six months or so, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find that rhythm I’m used to living. My days do have a rhythm, but it’s not a rhythm that feels natural. I feel a bit off balance most of the time. And no matter what I’ve tried, I can’t seem to find my way back to the rhythm that feels right.
It’s been distressing and frustrating, to say the least. I have felt out of alignment with myself. I have felt disconnected from the things that matter most to me: spaciousness, thoughtfulness, prayerfulness, and quiet. I have felt disoriented. I have felt a bit like a fraud. And I have felt increasingly unsure what to do about it.
And so this week, when I met with my spiritual director, Elaine, all of this showed up in the mix of what we talked about.
And when she invited me to take this frustration to God in prayer, I was in for a surprise. That’s where the growing edge showed up.
In that moment of prayer, I saw that God and I were walking along the beach. It was about five in the afternoon, and the sand along the shoreline was soft and cold and wet. We were barefoot, walking slowly, and I knew God knew all the frustration I’ve been feeling in this area, 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 about 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.
Yet my relation to all of it will 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.
This is my growing edge. And it feels unsettling. Yet I can’t shake that I know it’s what’s being invited of me right now.
Do you have a growing edge in your life right now? How would you describe the way you’re being invited to grow?