Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Being and Doing in the New Year

Welcome to the new year. It is a time of New Year's resolutions. I don't like them. They play into my perfectionistic tendencies and are therefore an invitation to frustration. I am, though, lured by them.

This year, there is something else inviting change: my 11-year-old daughter prefers the company of her friends (even by phone) to the company of her mom. (I totally understand. I am not sure I enjoy my company much of the time.) I was trying to remember who I was before I was a mom. Eleven years ago, I was much less disabled than I am now, not to mention plain old younger. I can't do what I used to do.

So what do I do now?

When I did my first Third Step, turning my will and my life over to the God of my understanding, I was worried. I suspected that God would want me to Do Something and wasn't sure I would like it. Beyond that, how could I figure out what it was I was supposed to do? I spun around that question for several weeks. I remember the night I told my group I had figured it out. "I think God is not so much concerned with what I do as who I am. If I am who God wants me to be, then I'll do the right thing."

Who does God want me to be? That's a good question for every morning, for every situation.

I am always looking for answers from outside myself, so I spent a while surfing the web for ideas. I kept finding things that didn't fit. Then I remembered a sermon I gave more than five years ago. I read it again, cried over it, remembered how right it felt. I re-posted it to my personal website. I called it The God of Lost Causes and it is about how God heals.

  • God values us and values our stories

  • God calls us to move beyond the limitations we think we have, beyond the strictures others may place on us, beyond our comfort zones

  • God brings us to wholeness and affirms us as part of God's family


That begins to tell me who to be: someone who honestly shares her story and listens to others' stories, someone who recognizes that we all are family, someone who moves beyond her limitations. As I'm writing this, I realize that I'm using "doing" words, not "being" words. Let me try again: honest, genuine, interested, open, compassionate, loving, free. That feels like I'm getting somewhere.

I had another "aha moment" during a class at the Jung Association. The teacher suggested that one way we can tell what God wants us to do is by noticing what gives us joy.

I think it's important to understand what joy is as our culture often confuses it with a sort of Bacchanalian revelry. [I have to confess, here: that last phrase popped out of my mouth and then I had to look it up to make sure I meant what I was saying. This is the danger of being raised in an academic family. It turns out, I was right.] There is a desperate boisterousness that we mistake for happiness. That is not joy. When I look for a guide to discernment, the phrase that comes to me is "life enhancing." Drunken parties are rarely life enhancing.

I made a list of what gives me joy: reading, writing, nature, art (making and appreciating). Using the word "art," I stumble on another tool for discernment. The books, music, TV, etc. that bring me joy are Art. The ones that leave me tired and disappointed aren't. (Mood plays into this too and it explains why "one man's art is another man's trash.")

In honor of the new year, I am going to post both my "being" and "doing" lists where I will see them and watch what changes...

1 comment:

Gary said...

"God values us and our stories ..."

Oh, maybe 15 years ago when I first joined the Catholic church, I picked up a missal and found this statement in a meditation about the day's readings:

"God grant that we might dwell in the holy mystery of our lives, not needing to know the future so much as willing to live each day fully and gracefully, through Christ who sets us free."

God's always been a mystery to me, best explained by thinking of him as the occupant of the Space before the Big Bang and of the Space outside the edge of the universe.

I liked the thought so much I've used it as a screen-saver for years. It explains my life in a wheelchair, at least to me. It provides a reservoir of patience when I get a "You're so brave" comment.

I quote it frequently, no doubt in hope that it reinforces my belief (faith in mystery?) that all is unknowable this side of Creation.

Gary www.garypresley.com