June 4th, 2013

Brendan Liturgy Part V

“After years on this adventure, Brendan sails in sight of home, not the home he yearned and sought for, but familiar sights and people, those who held and hold him dear.”

I was struggling with finding myself in Part V.

I dutifully engaged in the exercises: reading Mark and noting the questions that were asked of Jesus, writing down my own “questions of faith” and the like. It was interesting. I realized that I was hoping to find some sort of theme in the questions that were being asked of Jesus, some common thread, something…honestly… something I could TEACH about. There may in fact be a pattern or theme there, but I haven’t found it yet.

There WAS a theme to my questions, though. It wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else because the theme is largely unspoken. It lies in the motive of my questions.

Achievement.

My questions seemed to center on things like, “how will I achieve this, or accomplish that or arrive there…” Even questions about  personal discipleship, interior development, my soul, etc. had a “project- like” quality to them. “How do I fix X so that Y will turn into a Z..”

Still an engineer.

Then a friend sent me an article that I didn’t think was related to the Brendan liturgy until I was mugged on my way to work this morning…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The article by Michael Wear is short and can be read in 5 minutes here…

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/you-can-change-world

…but here are a some of excerpts:

“Calling is not a code to crack.”

“We won’t find fulfillment in achievement.”

“Failure is not a sin, and success alone means little.”

“The truth is that calling is not about what you are producing, but what God is producing in you.”

Now, as I said, I hadn’t recognized the “achievement” theme being revealed in me at the time I read the article. I thought the article was really good and I resonated with it conceptually… it just didn’t seat itself firmly in my personhood. It was only in contact with my vocational self.

But like I said, it all came together when I got mugged this morning.

I was mugged by a 5”-0” tall Zumba Instructor and her pre-school daughters.

Today is my birthday and as I was walking to work this morning, Heather P. drove past me in the opposite direction with a smile and a wave. Not an uncommon occurrence; our schedules are such that we pass each other like that now and again.

Things BECAME uncommon when Heather passed me again in the opposite direction and began to pull to the side of the road in front of me as if to stop. There’s no room for that, so she thought better of it and continued on her way. I thought to myself, “Ah…she just wanted to say hello…that’s sweet. Hmm. I wonder if something’s WRONG though…”

There were a few spots further along where she could have pulled off and waited for me (if it was important) but she didn’t, so I didn’t worry.

I then met Laeloni and an older woman walking my direction. Laeloni is a little girl who I know from the local elementary school . She very politely introduced me to the older woman who was her grandmother, visiting from Mexico. I stretched my very limited Spanish to the breaking point in an effort to welcome Grandma to the States and then wished them well as I continued on, hoping I had not mistakenly called Grandma “the son of a motherless goat” or something worse. After another 1/4 of a mile or so, my mental wanderings had fully lost the memory of Heather’s failed attempt to pull over. I was onto other thoughts.

So I was shocked when from across the very busy street, I heard girlish squeals and my name being shouted. I turned to see such a lovely sight: Heather and the girls had parked the car 2 blocks off the main road, and had walked all the way back to meet me with a birthday balloon, cards, and even gifts in hand. They were jumping and running (all three of them!) and shouting, “Happy Birthday!”

I was kept from bursting into tears only by the fear that Sydney (4 years old) looked as if she would break free from Heather’s firm grasp and run straight into traffic to get to me. (She was never in any real danger…Mom had the situation well in hand)…but they were so excited…shouting and jumping waving to me.

It was awesome.

I gestured for them to wait…I would come to them.  I watched for a gap in the traffic and jogged across the street and was immediately jumped upon, madly hugged, fawned over…goodies were thrust into my hands…

I was mugged in reverse.

It was awesome.

The goodies included a Mylar helium balloon, seed packets (all of which suspiciously displayed HIGHLY colorful plants on the packages: peppers, snapdragons and rainbow carrots) original birthday greetings from the little girls (lovingly transcribed by their mother onto little cards):

“I hope you like the pretty rainbow flowers and peppers!”

“Thank you for my first garden carrot…please plant more!” (this little transaction had occurred at our home garden last Fall)

The cards were lovingly signed with purposeful scribbles and some very carefully formed block letters which bounced up and down and wandered across the paper just like the little pixie who made them  bounces and wanders through a room.

And of course “Mom” wrote some thoughts in her own card too. She shared some of the most encouraging words and spoke of how, though we do not share DNA, we are still family.

goodies

As I sat crouched on my haunches, little pixies climbing me and giggling, thrusting freshly plucked clover blossoms into my hands (they had apparently concluded that what they had given thus far was somehow inadequate and so violently seized the nearest offering they could lay hands on) trying to hold my colorful hoard in my hands, torn envelopes, wrapping paper, balloon and card, I concluded that, in the words of Bill Hybels, there is nothing like the church when it works.

What I mean by that is, this little buzzing cluster of love and activity at the side of the road transpired because the church worked.

  • Heather and I met when she was not much more than a teenager – because of the church.
  • She met her awesome husband Nicolai – because of the church.
  • We have seen each other through very difficult times – because of the church
  • These little girls are learning the art of love – because of the church.
  • There are many others who love me and them at least as much we love each other – that’s the church.
  • Our little buzzing cluster of love by the side of the road had in fact BECOME the church.

It hit me only a few moments later after goodbyes and final hugs had been exchanged and I had started back on my way:

“We won’t find fulfillment in achievement.”

“The truth is that calling is not about what you are producing, but what God is producing in you.”

“After years on this adventure, Brendan sails in sight of home, not the home he yearned and sought for, but familiar sights and people, those who held and hold him dear.”

As a leader of the church, as a teacher, a minister, a priest: I measure the wrong things.

As I adventure with Brendan I realize that I’ve yearned for a kind of success, an achievement that I’ve never really found. But then…as “I sail in sight of home” a different kind of success, a list of achievements I would not have recognized as such just a few short years ago come into view:

“…people, those who held and hold him dear.”

It feels arrogant to write it, but it’s true: Achievement is to have people love you. But obtaining that love cannot be the goal of your voyage. The voyage must be to know and be known by God. As love occurs along the way – it is a grace.

There it is. The Church.

For most of my life, I had lied, manipulated fought and tried to pay for love. It was the goal of my voyage. But when I quit, when I began to let go of my life – I found it.

Sound familiar?

Heather and the girls (and of course the rest of my family, church and otherwise) don’t love me because I manipulated them. It’s not codependent. It’s not conditional. I don’t love them because of what they can do for me.

beauties 2

The love we share is because we are refugees on the same road home. We are held together by a mutual love for the Great Other. He made us to fit together like parts of one body. Even the little ones know it in their own way, in fact, maybe they understand it better:

That’s why when they encounter love they almost explode with eagerness to give gifts and why, when they have already given all they have, they long to give more and will even madly grab at roadside weeds just to extend the moment of giving a little longer.  That’s why they are uninhibited, why they dance and sing, and act silly and shout “I love you!” across three lanes of traffic…they just assume the rest of us know what they already know in the deepest, simplest parts of their souls: We are loved by the One who imagined love – and so we are safe to be ourselves. In fact it is our duty.

I think for the first time in my life I can write these words: I am loved because of who I really am.

It’s not that Brenda or my kids, or anyone else has never loved me “just for me”…I’m quite convinced they have. It’s that today, I believe it.

I set out on a voyage for a certain kind of “love” 45 years ago. And now…closing in on 50 years old, I see the shoreline that I had imagined so long ago. It’s familiar – but not like I expected.

The people that God has brought along with me on this trip who have loved me, whom I love, have made all the difference. My beautiful wife, my gorgeous warrior daughters (all 4 of them!) my dearest friends and teachers, the up and coming generation whom I ACHE to serve…and of course, their children…

It’s not exactly like I imagined it.

For example, I never imagined the scene where I proudly walk past an 8 man road crew AND the guys in the parking lot of a machine shop admiring their Harleys (I’m not even kidding) with a very fancy Mylar balloon, clover blooms and colored ribbon in my hands…

Yeah. I never imagined THAT.

But it’s so much better than what I imagined.

…so much better.

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