Throughout the last 10 days, as I've reflected on my chrysalis a few people have wondered why I did this, why I wrote this. As is typical of me I didn't set out to write a multi-part reflection of such length and detail - that evolved as I started. I think the genesis for this reflection was the culmination of several things.
For a number of weeks lately I have been thinking of chrysalis. It's come up in my comments on blogs, as a read about various blog friends who are going through what looks like their chrysalis. And it came up in a sermon I preached just before I started my "stay-cation." So, the first reason is that chrysalis has been on my mind.
I suppose another reason is that I have been home these last two weeks and have had the luxury of time to rest, reflect, and write. Since I have taken this new call I don't have as much time for this as I did at small church. So, it's been good to slow down and be reflective.
A third reason is that I began this time off reading (finally) Barbara Brown Taylor's, "Leaving Church." Actually I read most of the book, there were some parts I just had to skip. As usual I really loved BBT's writing. She has such an amazing gift for words. But I was really saddened by her experience of church, of the priesthood, as a ministry that demands the priest to pour out his or her self completely for the care of others. I think this book is a reflection on BBT's chrysalis, but it includes some tragic lack of self-care. It got me thinking, what were seminaries teaching their students in the early 1980's and how had that changed by the mid 1990's? I remembered seminary placing a lot of emphasis on clergy well-being and self-care. I also remembered that self-care was a huge emphasis in my training for massage therapy. At that time I was profoundly affected by a book, "How Can I Help" by Ram Dass. Looking at the lives and reflections of people in helping positions Ram Dass articulates the importance of helping without a need to satisfy the ego - you know, oh, if I do this I will be so wonderful and I will be "liked." People found out that through helping others so much more really happened - life changing, self awareness, changes. Anyway, I think the idea of appropriate self-care, and how that was a component of my "training" was another motivator for this reflection.
The last reason was the result of reading the RevGals August bookclub book: "Friendship of Women" by Joan Chittister. As I've read this book I have found myself thinking about the various women who have been friends and mentors for me, the "Lydias," "Prescas," "Martha's" etc in my life. So, while it was a subtle component, this reflection was also a tribute to those women.
To JS the first woman priest I experienced and now blog with; to JH my therapist who helped us through the recovery;
to KW my seminary friend who helped us through the recovery time and attended the discernment weekend and has been a fabulous friend for over 10 years;
to LP the rector/priest at my internship church who was so formative in my priesthood and has become a friend;
to MM my spiritual director;
to Joan Chittister who wrote, "Scarred by struggle, transformed by hope - the nine gifts of suffering;" and to all the RevGals who helped me through the darkest of days.
There are, of course many other women and men who were instrumental in my formation, and I am grateful for them, too.
As I suggested yesterday, chrysalis may be at the heart of life. Even though its true, no one wants to think, that it is the challenges and dark nights that cause us to grow and change. I think that it is the "moving through" those challenges, and doing so sustained by faith, that causes the deep transformation. There is so much potential for us to come out of it all feeling bitter and as if "life owes us." But moving through chrysalis with the idea that God is walking with us, even and especially, when we cannot see God any where, is an act of faith. And, coming out the other side, back to a place of wholeness and light again, I can see that God was with me in that darkness. I don't believe that God has a "plan" nor do I believe that we are puppets just playing out God's plan. I believe that God has a desire for us and nudges us but goes with us where we go. Freewill is after all the second gift from God, life being the first. So, God goes with us. And in this reflection I give thanks to God.