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The journey – knowing what you have to do

March 3, 2010

Here’s the thing… too much navel-gazing gets old after awhile, right? Even when it’s ME doing the navel-gazing. Smile.

You’ve done it too, haven’t you – clicked on somebody’s blog (probably mine now and then), realized that it was one of those long-winded navel-gazing posts, and then clicked away looking for something more entertaining? Yeah, go ahead and admit it – I won’t take it personally – even my husband admits to skipping some of my posts.

With so many thousands (millions?) of blogs out there, there’s a LOT of navel-gazing on the internet. Sometimes it seems like everyone (yes, myself included) has become egocentric and ethnocentric in their search for the right self-help book, the right guru, the right yoga practice, the right set of 400 thread count sheets, the right “10 steps to self-actualization”, and the right “dreams-for-my-personal-future”.

The thing is, if all of those things aren’t balanced with compassion, justice, and RESPONSIBILITY, well then everybody loses but ME, ME, ME! And how happy will we be if we’re lonely in that perfect self-actualized bubble we’re living in?

So… after that rant, you’re probably thinking I’m ditching all that stuff and just preaching a “live a life of total sacrifice and self-deprivation, and don’t do anything to improve yourself” message, right?

Well, ironically, that’s not the case. Because I actually do believe there is value in self-discovery, IF it is done in the spirit of “if I give of my best, and challenge myself to recognize and share what I have, then I am serving the people around me as well as myself and we’ll all be better off for it”. Contentment begets contentment. Compassion begets compassion. Self-respect begets respect for others. Pay it forward. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A happier me is a happier you. You get what I’m saying.

I’m beginning to understand that the season of Lent is actually partly about digging deeper to understand ourselves better and, as a result, figuring out how to be what we are called to be. Here’s a quote from Frederick Buechner that inspired me recently…

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves…To hear yourself answer (such a question) is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end of it.

Asking ourselves the questions that Christ asked himself, and facing the temptations that Christ faced (to let pride, greed, and the desire for power become his guiding energy) are all part of becoming who we are meant to be. It’s about figuring out how we are meant to serve the world.

Christ was about to face the ultimate test of his calling (his own sacrificial death), but before he was ready for that, he had to spend some time alone in the desert. I’m sure that wasn’t popular with his followers who probably thought it was unfair of him to desert them. (How could somebody lead and inspire us and then ditch us?!) But he knew that if he didn’t do this, then his calling would not be fulfilled and his followers would suffer more in the long run then the pain they felt in the short term.

In the end, Christ and all humanity benefits when Easter comes and there is resurrection and redemption.

That’s not about navel-gazing, that’s about finding strength in who we are gifted to be, even when it’s not popular with the people who don’t want to see us change or step away from them.

This poem (via Christine) says it well…

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

– Mary Oliver

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2010 8:51 am

    Mary Oliver. No “y”.

    and i love Buechner

  2. March 3, 2010 9:56 am

    This is such a wise way of looking at Lent, and is something I needed today. Thank you! I’d love to know which book the Buechner quote is from.

    Mary Oliver’s poem is wonderful, and conveys such urgency. That’s not a bad thing to experience in doing the kind of Lenten work you describe. What our strengths are, and what we have to offer, matters.

  3. March 3, 2010 10:27 am

    very wise indeed. this gives me something to think about. thank you for that!

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