Archive for November 22nd, 2009

Spiritual living is all about setting things in right order. We must  persistently and patiently clear away the dust and smudges that gather on the lenses through which we look at our lives. Then, it’s all about holding on tightly to the central threads that define what and who we are. I think back to all the many aspirations of my youth and how, so many twists and turns later, the story of my life emerges as one part plan and many parts happenstance.

The defining moments were events that seemed random at the time but that set in motion a whole range of  changes. All those moments had another thing in common. They called on me to make a choice, to commit myself without reservation, and to take a leap of faith.

As I look back, what is interesting is that I made the most significant of those choices in an instant without much pondering or analysis.

  • I met my wife as an undergraduate sophomore in a liberal arts college. I took Russian Art history, as did she but at the last moment after being closed out of another class she had hoped to take instead. We met in September. I proposed in November. We married in May. That was 35 years ago. I left school after marriage to work and support us. It was hard and the jobs not to my liking, but we were together, and that’s all that mattered. What governed all of our decisions was what we meant to each other. The vow was unconditional, and life-long. It was the necessary and right thing for us. It was somewhere written that we would grow older together and my good fortune is measured by a mutual love as constant as the Sun.
  • Nine years into our marriage, our son was born: A wide-eyed child who came into the world looking astonished, curious, and thoughtful, as if surprised by the sudden change of scenery. At 26 years old now, he has a very active and incisive mind, and an abundant eagerness for life experience and adventure. He remains astonished, curious, and ever thoughtful. He asks challenging and probing questions and strives for intellectual honesty. I take great pleasure in our deep conversations, and I am very proud of the person he has become.  Now he assumes his rightful place in the hero’s journey to uncover his special mission. In good and troubled times,  I have stood at his side, having vowed to be a father that would always be there believing in his capacity for greatness without reservation. My love for him is the second great constant of my life.
  • Nineteen years ago, our second child, our daughter, was born: An exuberant, passionate, affectionate, and adorable girl with eyes that shine with joyful expectation. She too is a lover of ideas, especially as they relate to the ways  people and nature are connected, and how she can be a presence for good in bringing out those connections. She is a natural counselor and coach and will make a very fine therapist. She has uncommon empathy for other people, deep emotional intelligence for someone her age, and a warmth that is constant and fueled by a very large heart. She is all about being with people and her choices already have put her on a glide-path to making that the core of her professional life. She is the third precious element in my life.
  • Beyond these three pillars, there are my  sisters who hold very sizable claim on my heart and to whom I have also vowed to be a supportive presence. With beautiful families of their own, I remain a blessed older brother ever watchful and prayerful that they find joy and happiness.

As an outgrowth of these primary vows, I later said yes to a call to the Priesthood, and then the episcopacy. Taking these vows  was more authentic by virtue of the ones that came before. The lifelong vow of the Priest is to commit to a radical doctrine of unconditional love and the continuous purging of the baser instincts and crude attachments, addictions, and preoccupations.

My choices led to non-traditional channels for priesthood and this is still an unfolding mystery. The one clear reality is that all these vows revolve around one primary quest, one central yearning, one powerful force opening up a path from among the innumerable possibilities. I do not know how the road will run from here, where it leads, nor how it will end, but I know it is mystically guided.

Beyond these principal people, there are, of course, many others, friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, that have enriched my life beyond measure. Yet, all my choices are footnotes to those first powerful commitments. While the anchoring constants are those closest to me, defining who I am and what my life means, it’s a great paradox that solitude invariably reasserts itself.

My business and professional travels take me away from my home and wife.  Having graduated, my son has now moved to South Korea for a year to teach and, at least physically, couldn’t be farther away. My daughter, a sophomore in college in the midwest, is pursuing her dreams and is now out of the house for most of the school year. This is as it should and must be, but everything is changing so fast. My wife and I now are rediscovering how to be a couple again, and this is the next phase in living the vow we took to one another so many years ago.

These are bitter-sweet times. They are hard. I think of my wife, son and daughter every day, wondering what they are doing, learning, and experiencing. It occurs to me that the joy of being close and the pain of being separated all amount to the same thing: recognition that the meaning of our lives is powerfully defined by those special, relatively few moments, where we make a choice and take a leap of faith. These are acts of courageous commitment rooted in a gut sense of the force of destiny.

I recall that the Aymara Indians of Central America have no personal pronoun nor a singular voice in their language. An Aymara married man, physically away from his wife, will answer the question: “Where is your wife?” by answering ” We are here.” In our language, the personal pronoun often injects distance between ourselves and those we “love”.

There are those who choose a more tentative and tempered life arrangement with  pre-nuptial agreements and trial periods to test the waters. I see this hesitancy as affectional agnosticism. It is eros but often without agape. It is rational but potentially bloodless. There is no authentic and deep love without the great leap and the sonorous yes in the face of uncertainties and the inevitabley winding pathways of life.

Whether separated from those that mean so much to me or right there by their side, my life is forever defined in terms of what we mean to each other. Our thoughts in each other’s absence, and the energy we spend to keep the hearth burning and the lights lit is a constant beacon guiding them home. They stand as living testimony to the perpetual inner flame of true loving.

The Cosmic Beloved speaks to us in all of this. The hero’s journey demands  firm choices, bold and gutsy vows, and an assertive, heart-felt march into the dark woods with  frequent recollection of what it was that inspired that first “YES” and the will to cross the first threshold.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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