See Soulwork Toward Sunday: self-guided retreat
Proper 9 (year B) July 8, 2012
“sent out in weakness”

He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff;
no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;
but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.
  – Mark 6:8-9

The Hermit, Rider Tarot Deck

I love being settled. I love familiar sounds, scents, sensations, birdsong, the growing cycles of seeds:  sprouting, stem, bud, blossom and seed pod, the withering and dying and regeneration. As a gardener I want to know what happily blooms in one corner and not another. I like to know from which direction thunderstorms come and where the sun sets in winter. I love the instinctive knowing of the progression of seasons so that every year I sink into a deepening sense of place.

I love knowing I have several pairs of very warm wool socks for winter. I love knowing I have some light cotton flowing dresses for summer. I love knowing I’ll eat sun-ripened strawberries in June, warm tomatoes right off the vine in July, and figs in August.

I love sitting in familiar, cozy chairs, worn to my shape. I love beloved childhood books that still come alive as they did when I was nine or ten years old, books that belonged to my mother when she was a little girl, with her tear stains and then mine, bindings crackling, pages that almost dissolve like ash. I love the ordering of my bookcase, so that I can intuitively find a quote I want or need from some wise person whose name I can’t remember – paperback, little, burgundy colored, I read it in Advent, it’s on the right hand shelf in the middle, here it is, ah, yes, Johannes Metz…

I love to be able to find things in my cabinets. A rare tea, an Asian spice I use a few times a year, a favorite but fragile cup.

My first book ends with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.” And my second book begins with the sentence, “Every time I have ever moved I have had to learn to pray all over again.”

I moved a lot because of marriage and the military, and then ministry. Each time I moved I felt disrupted, disoriented. I remember, though, that every move brought me new, dear, life-long friends, important sensations, a bit of much-needed cultural shock and widening of perspective. I’m grateful. But I do love being settled.

I don’t like the thought of being sent out again. Especially as the disciples were sent – without anything extra for comfort, no bread, no bag, no money, not even an extra tunic for warmth. I can’t imagine being utterly dependent again upon the hospitality of strangers or subject to their hostility.

I don’t like being dislocated.

I also know that’s what you get as a lover of God. I tell myself I won’t be “sent out” again. But I also know that age is no excuse. In the meantime I can encourage other people sent to “the ends of the earth” or even into local but difficult situations.

I hope I will never have to move again. It’s a lovely fantasy. After all, this house is not ours, and the dampness will prove too much a challenge if we live long enough to grow old. Even if I never have to move again, if I am to love God my inner life will welcome disruption, going to barren deserts and strange mountains and dark caves. Even if I stay here surrounded by gardens and the steady progression of seasons and my old books.

If I love God, I will have to learn to pray all over again. And again.

My own meditation this week is The Journey, by Mary Oliver.

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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