Sunday, September 26, 2010
The evening was also a celebration of the ministry of Pastor Fred Jessett, shown here with his wife Kris at our younger daughter's belated baptism. Fred knocked on over 1200 doors in his efforts to get Good Sam off the ground, and though he's now long-retired, he still serves as vicar emeritus for his adoring congregation.
Due to a last minute seating change, I found myself sitting beside Good Sam's brand new music director, and -- as happens sometimes -- we slipped almost immediately into a deeper level of conversation than usually attends such social events; clearly, at some level, we were kindred spirits.
But afterward, as often happens, I found I was kicking myself a bit for having monopolized the conversation. And my first thought was, "Shoot -- I went off into Chatty Cathy mode again!"
But then I read, in Cynthia Bourgeault's The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, that when Mary talks about the importance of becoming "fully human," she's using the word anthropos, which refers -- as does Logion 22 in the Gospel of Thomas, to "an integration of the opposites within oneself... the union of the finite and infinite within oneself... so that that there is "one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all."
This passage seemed to echo some of the conclusions of the final term paper I wrote while in Vermont last week: I had written that in order to serve others we need to be conscious of our own motivations, blind spots and weaknesses. "Awareness and acceptance of my strengths and weaknesses," I had written, "empowers me to become – whatever I do -- a more balanced and integrated whole."
So I began looking back over the evening and that conversation with different, less hostile eyes, in hopes of finding a way to love behaviors I often find distasteful. And what I saw was that it was cruel to call myself "Chatty Cathy" and crueler still to assume I was attempting to impress my new friend. I suspect, instead, that what drove the conversation was a sort of youthful eagerness, a desire to share strategies that might protect the person from some of the hardships I'd endured; to offer a sort of jumpstart along the path to wholeness.
And suddenly I could picture my older daughter, so painfully bright, so eager to share her knowledge with new friends, and so frequently rejected for those behaviors because they weren't ready to hear, or thought she was hopelessly nerdy. And isn't that really the story of Christ -- desperately trying to help his disciples understand the nature of that mystical union, and being first misunderstood and then ultimately crucified for his efforts?
There's an exercise I've mentioned here before, that I learned a few years back in a workshop given by a Parker-Palmer-inspired group called Washington Courage and Renewal: write down the characteristics in yourself that you find hardest to love, and figure out the gifts those characteristics bring to you and the world. The answers surprised me then, and continue to bless me today. So I heartily suggest -- next time you hear those voices inside you, attacking repeat behaviors -- that you spend some time getting to know and love both those voices and those behaviors. I feel certain they have lessons to teach us, and I firmly believe that if we can integrate them into our total being we'll find it easier to grow into the fully human individuals we were born to become.
Posted by Diane Walker at 9:40 AM