Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coming home

“I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.”
-from today’s psalm

Early in my arrival to Africa many years ago, a Peace Corps friend brought me to a nomad.  His home was the Sahara desert, where he travelled with his steer from feed site to feed site, and occasionally came into town to sell his cattle.  Eager to impress, I spoke quickly to him in the local language.  At the end of my garbled words, delivered straight from text book phrases, he turned to my friend and said, “where did he come from?”  My friend told him that I had recently arrived by plane in the land across the ocean.  “Ah,” the nomad said to me.  “A soul cannot travel faster than a camel in the desert.  It moves at its own pace.  In six months, you will arrive.” 

As I return to the Creighton campus from the acute care facilities, I am many months short of having my soul catch up to absorbing the lessons from the past two months.  I pray for the patience to let them come at their own gracious pace.  But right now, there is a word that resounds with clarity: contentment.  It happens when the dust falls from our eyes, the hardness in our hearts softens, and the tension in our minds relaxes.   This could bring on a sense of wonder—being overwhelmed with all that is and all that we have—but that is a stretch.  And we eventually learn that the good life breaks out when we want less drama, more simplicity in what we do, in what we seek.  It is more accurate to say that what is ordinary can be so meaningful, so sufficient, so convincing of a soul-drenched life. 

The medical condition looked bleak early on.  Key life functions were solely dependent on others’ care and prayers.  And when the mind caught up to the reality, there were no healthy option but to wholly surrender to the love of God.  The great epiphany was not a sort of out-of-body experience.  Quite the reverse.  In this beaten state, in this spooky place of beeping machines, there was no need for an emotional high.  There was no need for complete closeness with heaven or with others.  It was not necessary to have perfect, consoling words.  It was better than that:  contentment with what is.  There is no need to be in awe; we are satisfied with whatever regular conversation or prayer or task is before us.  We know that in any mundane situation, there are plenty of signs of infinite love, inspiring hope.  

That is when we are not blustered with the unknown.  What we know is enough: even in the most tiring and puzzling of moments, there remains the possibility to surrender it all.  It is not a flight from all the bumps and burdens that pepper any life; it is absorbing them into a bigger scene.  This surrender was not a great achievement on my part—it was the opposite.  It occurred when I could no longer get in the way.

With each unexpected medical breakthrough, as normalcy in breathing and moving and speaking returned, there came a thrill, and then an ache to God:  let me hold fast to this contentment of placing my life utterly in your hands.  Let me retain the grace of taking in the healing kindness of others.  With whatever strength and energy return, let me stay in an obvious and wholehearted trust in your care.   Let me travel in this land of the living at the pace that is guided by the soul, inspired by the ordinary, and life-giving for your people.

Fr. Pat

1 comment:

  1. Welcome home, Father Pat! You are an inspiration. May we all surrender to the Divine Will no matter what the ups and downs. Still praying for your cure. :-)