More Like Humility
After living outside of the Catholic Worker for several months, I moved back in around August 1st. I don’t know how long this re-immersion into the Catholic Worker life will last--not that it really ceased, as my presence at the Worker, even while I lived a bike ride away, was nearly as strong as my first year living here--and in this sense I have regained the kind of healthy detachment to the Denver Catholic Worker that I felt when I first arrived--a being able to watch the creative expression of Divinity that this house is--moving, growing, loving--without trying to catch it, dissect it, explain and name it.
And at twenty-eight, I approach the work with a kind of calm that I didn’t have two years ago. It’s not the romanticized version of the Catholic Worker life that I once clung to. I am not in love with the Catholic Worker. And I do not think I am entirely amazing either for doing this work (as I secretly felt I was for a while). More or less, it’s a growing comfortability with what is. It’s not cynicism; it’s becoming grounded in, but not depressed by, reality. It’s more like humility. It’s a more honest experience. And yet often--more often than when I first arrived--I am able to see the magical in the mundane.
The new-found calm isn’t always consistent however, but I know more certainly that when I have a moment of crisis--or the feeling of impending crisis, whether or not it’s simply imagined crisis--I should turn toward prayer. (This means pausing before running to Marcus, calling my mom, or having that tall glass of wine.) And by prayer I don’t mean just trying to suddenly become happy, by wrapping the ugliness of life up in a bow. By blocking the surge of sadness or fear. I must turn to the prayer that carried me through my early development as a Christian: the childlike kind of prayer. “Dear God,” I used to begin my journal entries as a teenager, “Thank you for the good health of my parents. I pray that it continues.” But somewhere along the journey I began to think that it was inappropriate--rather, silly--to ask God for anything. Instead, it was important, it was more mature, I thought, to simply be aware of God. To just live a holy life. To be good. To dig deeper into the trenches of pain--that of others--and come out with a kind of lesson learned. But to imagine that one can live a true, holy life without turning toward the Spirit for guidance was a foolish hope, and my well--where I stocked my own pictures of how life should be--quickly ran dry.
One reminder that asking, pleading, or yearning--as long as what we’re pining for is not separate from God’s desire for us--is just fine, even evidence of a true life, was the arrival in the mail of Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal that my sister sent me for my birthday. Her entries also began, “Dear God,” in which she pleaded for purity of thought and even expressed her artistic aspirations, asking God that she might be read, and that His goodness would be shown through her writing. Seeing her vulnerability displayed in graceful, sweeping cursive writing encouraged me to become more honest about my relationship with God, and my need for guidance.
I realize that the questions--and the question asking--are an integral part of listening. It’s not bad to have questions--it’s so good!--I have decided, and when I shush this voice of yearning within me I become crippled. In fact, the questions are the answers themselves. Questions open us up to something divine outside of ourselves. Questions invite the Spirit to reveal itself in our lives. By forcing my doubting, pleading self to be quiet I become stuck, trying to will myself here and there--and ultimately trying to escape when reality is less than inviting.
Before I left for Denver over two years ago I wrote in my journal that I was seeking God out--and that was my only question (or hope). I am surrendering, attempting to, though with the corners of my eyes more definitely creased, returning to wishfulness about life. No matter how hard it is to be naive once you’ve seen so much, it’s worse to fall into the trap of believing you know all there is, now, to know--that is a lonely corner. Instead I will continue to blow on dandelions, and hope they will lead me somewhere.