This past week, I had the privilege of serving as a spiritual director to a group of 28 graduate students in the hills of Malibu, California.
They were on residency for the week (and what a glorious, pristine, peaceful location in which to learn!), and each day, one by one, I met with a few more students and held their stories with them, one sacred hour at at time.
I cannot tell you how moving this was.
After the first day, having met with four different students for an hour each throughout the day, I was struck by the variety of each one. Their place in life, their histories, the questions they’re holding in this present moment, how God is moving and inviting them to grow right now — each person’s hour was totally different from the next.
It was so clear to me, in these unfolding narratives, how God had been working and weaving and nudging and inviting deeper and deeper growth inside each one. Often I heard about the history that laid the foundation for their life, then a moment of awakening that came — a moment when they “came awake” to themselves and to God in a new way and began a deeper journey of understanding and courage and growth.
Maybe you remember your own “coming awake” moment.
Some of these students — and maybe you can relate to this — have been on the deeper journey for a very long time. They’re wise and seasoned. They know their center. Spiritual direction provides space for them to hold in their hands some of the pieces of their right-now life and find and notice God in the midst of it.
Others — and maybe this feels more like you — have only recently begun that deeper journey. It’s all still so very new and unexpected. God is about the work of reorienting vision, in some cases disorienting everything, blowing open wide the doors of understanding in ways unsettling, unexpected, unavoidable, and intriguing. In this place, there’s a lot of looking back and asking questions that feel huge and monumental.
The contrast between these two seasons has got me noticing and thinking on
Richard Rohr’s teachings on what he calls the “second half of life.” Every one of these students has entered the second half of life — an initiation that has nothing to do with chronological age and everything to do with that moment I’m describing of “waking up” to one’s self and God in a new and deeper way.
Do you know the moment I’m talking about?
It’s that moment that invites and exposes all the questions suddenly new yet suddenly obvious. It’s the moment everything goes deep and you realize there’s a whole cavern of life inside you, just waiting to be traversed. It’s the moment God becomes much more mysterious and much less containable. It’s the moment of initiation into a more nuanced, complex way of seeing all things.
You say yes and step gingerly into the depths, and maybe you have a hunch life will never be the same again.
It’s true. Life will never be the same.
Do you know the moment I’m describing here — the moment of “waking up” to a deeper journey? Do you remember when it happened for you?