This poem has been an encouragement to me over the past few very difficult, but necessary years. I am only beginning to understand the depths of the words contained in this poem, words that both devastate me and comfort me all at the same time.
Patient Trust (In The Slow Work of God)
— By Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Recently, I was speaking to a friend on Skype about the state of my life and my heart (not exactly a stellar state, let’s just say). She challenged me to make a ‘creative gratitude journal’ to lift up my heart and soul through this challenging season.
After we ended our call, I sat there on my bed pondering her words. And within moments, I decided to take her challenge seriously. This wasn’t the time to just sit down and wallow in a puddle of self-pity. This was the time for positive action and creative encouragement.
Soooo…. I decided since I love editing photos, writing and collecting inspiring quotes, why not make it a creative online design project? And why not share it with the world?
What is ‘The Creative Encouragement Project’?
To embrace each new day and multiply gratitude within it, I am creating photographic quotes to encourage the soul into joy and wonder again. Everybody needs a little encouragement to survive thrive every day! I’d like to think of this project as a creative infusion of courage for the soul.
This ongoing project is a way of (regularly) reminding myself (and others) of what is good, true and life-giving. This is my way of picking up the sword and kicking the ickiness out of my daily life (and maybe it’ll spur others on into joy as well which is an added bonus)!
So, without further adieu, click the button below to:
I would describe my life these days as rather ambiguous. I can’t seem to find a clear, concrete definition for this season. I wish I liked the ambiguity a little more. I bought this card earlier this year while I was visiting a friend in the States, and I have it displayed on my desk to try and convince myself of the supposed ‘deliciousness’ of this completely frustrating season of uncertainty.
Even though I have gone over my priority list a million times already, showing me why I have chosen to do what I’m now doing (living and working in my childhood hometown), it doesn’t make the ‘living-it-out’ part any easier. Not knowing how long I’ll be here and why I’m truly here is a tad torturous for this organizer-planner gal.
Most of the time, this ‘delicious ambiguity’ feels more like ‘distasteful yuckiness’, if I’m completely honest.
Life is about not knowing.
That involves trusting an unseen divine hand upon my life, a trust that I resist with everything in my being. A trust that involves all the unknowns and uncertainties that live just around the corner. I can’t see that far. I hate corners. They’re killin’ me.
Life is about having to change.
I used to think that I was fairly ‘okay’ with change. But these changes over the past couple years? Nope. I’ve kicked, screamed and stuck my head in the sand like a ridiculous ostrich trying to avoid the inevitable, refusing to accept that I have to change my way of thinking, my perspective on my life, and my approach to challenging people and circumstances. I’ve fought the reality that change is often counter-intuitive, goes against the grain of my natural flow, and seems to stubbornly violate everything my heart holds dear. I have had my share of grown-up temper tantrums, crying about how life is not going the way I thought it should. My life is not going according to plan! The plot has jumped off the grid, and I’m faltering. Reality is setting in that life is rarely easy or fair and not always enjoyable. Sometimes, it’s just damn hard. So, in those times, to get fresh hope and joy to navigate forward in life, we must change. It’s the only way to progress in life. If we refuse to accept the changes, we’ll get stuck on the road and life will pass us by. Ugh, I don’t want life to pass me by…
Life is about taking the moment and making the best of it.
So the ingredients in my current life don’t feel like they will combine together to form anything remotely delicious or tasty, but this is what I’ve been given to work with in this season of my life. Can I accept it and then make the best of it? Sigh. I’m trying…
Life is about not knowing what’s going to happen next.
So, I guess this means I must give up control of the plot, and give up my demand that life tell me what’s around the corner. I must give up my wishful thinking that everything in life will be ‘easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy’ as my little niece loves to cutely declare. No, life is definitely not easy-peasy, and nothing about it is certain or unchanging. Life is more about giving up the illusion that it never changes and accepting the inevitable uncertainty of it all.
So, here I am, staring at this little card on my desk. It tells me that life is a story that doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. At first, it breaks my heart, but the more I have thought about it these days (and the reason I have even kept it on my desk) the more I realize how much hope it has given me. It has shown me that even though the story called “My Life” feels so ambiguous at times, when I take the courageous steps to “change the things I can change” and “accept the things I cannot change”, I discover that the plot really is moving forward. This is all going somewhere. And maybe, just maybe, I can catch a whiff of something possibly delicious coming around the corner. And, as this other card below has encouraged me lately,
“Sometimes your journey will take you off of your path. It’s all part of the same trip.”
Life is full of side roads. Side roads that often don’t make any sense at all. Life is not one straight path forward. It is a woven tapestry of multi-layered paths, unexpected intersections, devastating detours, challenging roadblocks, fascinating views and surprising encounters along the way.
I’ve had a few people asking me lately when I’ll write a new blog post because my posts have been few and far between this year. Yes, I realize there’s been minimal activity here… it’s been a little silent on the blog.
If you saw my writing folder on my computer desktop, you would see that I have half a dozen or so half-finished articles, and there are even a few that are in draft-form on my website dashboard, with photos attached and all, but I haven’t been able to feel that internal release to ‘go-ahead-and-press-the-publish-button’. It appears I just don’t want to publish my words these days.
Sometimes, we go through seasons where we need to leave more of the deep, internal words of our heart hidden and un-written on the inside, or at least, just revealed to a few trusted friends or family. Let’s just say it’s been one of those seasons.
“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others.” (C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism)
So, that is what I’m doing… my own eyes (and my own words) are not enough for me right now, I will see through those of others.
I may not be writing these days, but I am reading like a parched desert has just met an ocean of others’ words.
In five minutes, all the pain and perplexity of this long dark season was… validated.
These words were quoted and contained within an article on this man‘s website; his depth of mind and heart astonishes me and has the ability to comfort my soul like few can.
I’d like to just cut to the chase and post the first couple paragraphs of the article and share the very words that have made me weep. I am sure that those of you who are in a similar painful season will be compelled to click the article link at the bottom to read it in its entirety.
In her book, Survivor, Christina Crawford writes: “Lost is a place, too.”
That’s more than a clever sound-byte. It’s a deep truth that’s often lost in a world within which success, achievement, and good appearance define meaning and value.
What can that phrase teach us? That sometimes it’s good to be without success, without health, without achievements to bolster us, without good appearance, and even without meaning. Being down-and-out, alone, lost, struggling for meaning, and looking bad, is also a valid place to be.
One of the greatest spiritual writers of all time, John of the Cross, would agree with that. If he was your spiritual director and you explained to him that you were going through a dark, painful patch in life and asked him: “What’s wrong with me?” He would likely answer:
“There’s nothing wrong with you; indeed, there’s a lot right with you. You’re where you should be right now: in the desert, letting the merciless sun do its work; in a dark night, undergoing an alchemy of soul; in exile, lamenting on a foreign shore so that you can better understand your homeland; in the garden, sweating the blood that needs to be sweated to live out your commitments; being pruned, undergoing spiritual chemotherapy, to shrink the tumours of emotional and spiritual dead-wood that have built up from wrong-turns taken; in the upper room, unsure of yourself, waiting for pentecost before you can set out again with any confidence; undergoing positive disintegration, having your life ripped apart so that you can rearrange it in a more life-giving way; sitting in the ashes, like Cinderella, because only a certain kind of humiliation will ready your soul for celebration; and undergoing purgatory, right here on earth, so your heart, soul, and body can, through this painful purging, learn to embrace what you love without unhealthily wanting it for yourself.”
He’d also tell you that this can be a good place to be, a biblical and mystical place. That doesn’t make it less painful or humiliating, it just gives you the consolation of knowing that you’re in a valid place, a necessary one, and that everyone before you, Jesus included, spent some time there and everyone, including all those people who seem to be forever on top of the world, will spend some time there too. The desert spares nobody. Dark nights eventually find us all.