A fairytale always ends with the prince and princess living happily ever after. That is how we know it’s a story. Real life has more than just one huge problem to overcome. It has many challenges. A few are big ones, but most are just growing from one life stage to the next. The purpose of meeting and overcoming these challenges is to leave behind our preoccupation with ourselves and grow in love, compassion, courage, and gratefulness. I have found that while meeting these challenges, we can also have joy. It is a matter of focus.
I am presently ministering in an Aboriginal parish in the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, and my Sunday ministry is one of presence, of being with and listening to people. I have been graced with the privilege and honour of being the recipient of many sacred stories. People seem to just sit beside me and talk. Although we are an urban parish, Sundays often bring visitors from distant First Nations communities.
Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting everyone's time in spiritual direction. I meet with a seeker, spend an hour listening to them talk about their life. They share about their kids, relationships, desires, and goals; all things that you might discuss with a friend over coffee. I do my best to be present and open to the leading of Spirit, but if I manage to insert one wise question or thought into the hour we spend together, I feel like I'm doing pretty well.
In an interview with Alicia Peck, radio host Krista Tippett contends, “Listening is a basic social art—it’s a virtue and something we have to practice. If you practice it, you get better at it ... we need a broader skill set in terms of not just navigating issues and problems and making changes, but of building a common life and creating a new reality we want to inhabit with others.” Whether intended or not, Tippett is making a connection between hospitality and listening. Both are necessary for building a common life and creating a new reality we’d like to inhabit with others.
When God gathered all the ingredients together to create the recipe that he used to shape my soul, I think he forgot something. Hospitality.
I don't have a speck, a dash, or even a tiny smidgen of the stuff.
I envy those extroverts who love to entertain, open their doors to others, and engage in all the small talk at parties. Me? I 'd rather be by myself in my little corner of the world where everything is organized, predictable, and quiet.
Lately I have been seeing the gift of hospitality in a new light. I am learning to see this practice as more than just cooking, cleaning, and entertaining.
This past weekend my husband and I drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, to attend a commencement ceremony. We intended to celebrate our daughter Taylor’s achievement of completing her master of science degree from the University of Michigan. As it turned out, we celebrated something quite different.
A bit of back story. The morning of her graduation, Taylor planned on getting to the ceremony on her own. She would take the bus to campus as she usually did, cap and gown in tow. No big deal. We were staying on the other side of town and would meet her at the auditorium.
My spiritual director is trying to help me reimagine how I make decisions. Sometimes I wonder if she regrets having taken on such a monumental job.
"I don't know if I should go to my dad's for the holiday," I say plaintively, wanting her to just tell me what I should do, so I don't have to make a decision that I know is going to upset someone. "I really don't want to go," I continue, hoping to goad her into giving advice even though, as a spiritual director myself, I should know better. "If I don't go, he'll be upset, and it's been a while, so I feel like I should go..." I trail off, looking at her, still hopeful.
Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel connected dem dry bones, Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones, Now hear the word of the Lord.
Toe bone connected to the foot bone Foot bone connected to the heel bone Heel bone connected to the ankle bone Ankle bone connected to the shin bone Shin bone connected to the knee bone Knee bone connected to the thigh bone Thigh bone connected to the hip bone Hip bone connected to the back bone Back bone connected to the shoulder bone Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone Neck bone connected to the head bone Now hear the word of the Lord.