The last time I blogged, my mind was focused on all that I’m losing as I transition back to New York-the community, the setting and my daily experiences. I’m still keenly aware of these things. As I go through my daily routine I’m checking off a mental list of lasts. Last time to work outside on the grounds with Paul; last chapter meeting; leading prayer for the last time.
To my relief, now I’m also thinking about firsts, and the ways I’ve been enriched by this six-month journey. I have new spiritual relationships, new friends, a wonderful monastery where I’ll always feel welcomed, spiritual teachings and practices to continue on my own and share with my church community in New York. And for the first time, I am ready to be baptized.
For years, the thought of baptism filled me with fear. What if I proclaimed my faith in front of everyone but later down the road when life was comfortable, I stopped going to church or I discovered that I didn’t truly believe authentically after all? I imagined discarding my spiritual practices like an unused gym membership. I couldn’t bear the possibility.
In the time I’ve lived in community here those fears have dissipated. I discovered that I was ready to make the commitment. I realized that living a life of faith, aiming to give up my desires of ego satisfaction in order to serve God and serve others, is my heart’s desire.
Cue the music…Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
Yes, I may run away from God, but:
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast. – Psalm 139
Among the gifts I’m taking with me are spiritual practices that will lead me back to God when I’ve wandered afar–lectio divina, centering prayer and daily reading. This community imparted wisdom, knowledge and Benedictine values–the necessity for both community and solitude, communication practices, tools for self-exploration and self-knowledge. I know so much more now about liturgy and how ritual shapes our experience of connection to ourselves and to each other. Many seasons of the Christian calendar such as Advent, Epiphany, Lent and Holy Week have more meaning to me. My understanding of what it means to be baptized is much richer. To me right now, the most important thing is that it means choosing to accept the gift that is freely given from God, choosing to say, “Yes, I am a beloved child of God.” And as a child of God, I now know that I will always have a home, our only home, no matter where I go.
At a certain point recently, amidst the tears that appeared whenever I contemplated my departure, I realized, I’m clinging. If I keep holding on so tightly in fear of losing everything I love here, I won’t be free to receive the gift being offered. I have to loosen my grip and open my hands so I can receive the gift of unearned love. Let go.
I don’t know what the future holds; it’s a mystery for now. But I know I won’t be walking my path alone. I’m forever grateful to the Benedictine Women of Madison for your openness, generosity and wisdom; to Paz for sojourning with me; and to all the communities of Holy Wisdom Monastery for your love and support. You will always be in my heart.
If you’re ever in New York City, please look me up so I can extend some Benedictine hospitality to you.