While talking with a friend of mine I realized that I was playing a game that I play frequently, sometimes as a distraction and sometimes when I’m not sure what step to take next. So rather than figuring out the next step or doing the thing that needs doing I play that game. To be fair sometimes in doing something distracting I can figure out what comes next. More often what’s lost is that which can never be gained back, time to take action and do the thing that needs doing or thinking through. Admittedly part of this struggle is sometimes that my personal take on my own work is not quite the confident, do the work because it’s worth doing. It’s so much easier to do work for others. There are other areas of struggle that I will, much like our author Elizabeth Scalia, share as in someway the experience is pertinent to the conversation and will help me to be accountable for my own time and taking action.
The copyright of the book is 2013 and Elizabeth speaks to the early part of the turn of the millenia where our country was attacked, the reality of our lack of safety as a country came into sharp focus. One of the first sentences that grabbed my attention is “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.” Ben Franklin. This prophetic word spoken by a man who lived through and worked for our liberty during our own American Revolutionary period. To provide a bit of context Elizabeth was talking about an online forum which she participated back in the post 9/11 days, where one woman gave an thoughtful opinion regarding a proposed bill that would in many regards curtail our liberties. As I read this I don’t remember if i supported the bill or not, however Elizabeth’s beginning thinking process of what might become an idol, that thing that might become an idol, beautifully placed in our line of sight, so shiny and pretty reflecting back to use the poised and polished beauty of. . . my – our – very self. Ouch.
Leading up to reading this part for the second time (I’m diving in for the third as I lead the Book Study at Church) was listening to Fr Mike read from Genesis and thinking about both creation stories and how God, in his infinite, all things are relational, gave our lives the construct of time, ordering our days, giving us work to do, and people to relate to. I want to say this was the smack upside the head that I need to make those personal change, and in some ways it is. The longing to order what I do to honor God in my being has increased so much over the last several years. I can almost see how the dark time I had a few years ago was an opportunity to reorder this one life I have and how it is an on-going call to conversion that I must act on daily. Yep, I said it, conversion.
As Elizabeth continues to share both the experinces on the forum and in describing what she’s beginning to see the themes of “go deeper” and “there’s more to the what you’re reading” continue presenting themselves in a way that I can not ignore. As a practicing Catholic for the last 29 years, as a woman who has served in ministry, as a woman of faith I begin to wonder what have I missed and how did I miss it? And then I realize most of the Faith reading I did way back in the day had to do directly with ministry, so the Faith growth was in a different direction. As a couple we have what sometimes seems an inordinate amount of Faith books that we read. We both have areas of Faith that we read. A quick glance through my kindle will give you a hint of what I read before Mass. This then led me to question is what I’m reading before Mass leading me closer to Jesus as a fully present woman or am I simply reading for the sake of reading. The one thing I know with certainty is that this question is, as most things are, a bit nuanced as doing the reading often leads to deeper faith and further sometimes seeds take a while to germinate. In different areas of the country it’s a Cicada year, wow did those 17 years scoot by quickly. Sometimes it takes a while for the dime to drop and recognize what is standing in the way of
our my relationship with God.
Chapter 1: God before us
And here we go, the first highlighted words in this chapter are, “the addictive need to be right.” When I was starting to teach machine quilting this one smacked me right upside the head more than once, “if only they would listen to me their machine quilting would grow by leaps and bounds.” In one sense I was right, in another I quickly learned that compassion, being able to quickly adjust how the explanations were worded, that sometimes it’s about showing as much as it is about saying, and becoming more comfortable with the fact that I’m not the right teacher for every machine quilter out there, and that there are other teachers who will be in my classroom at any given time. Oh how my own self suffered as my pride said this teacher should not be showing up in My classroom. I needed to come to an understanding that I’m not the right teacher for everyone, and other teaching professionals have a lot to offer in explaining and presenting things in different ways. I struggle with letting go of being right in one way recognizing it is an old wound that either needs healing or I need to stop picking at it. It is seriously not fun nor is it easy to look at. I will say working on giving up being right is as hard as recognizing envy and giving that up. It does involve inviting Jesus in, asking for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who has promised to be with us until the end of the age. Just like the police officer that Elizabeth shares prays for Jesus to stand in the middle when going into a volatile situation.
“Why do people allow their relationship with God to become disoriented?” Elizabeth asks as she draws us deeper into the coeur. She points the way to “lacking loving relationships” and “Ego and pride can push us to achieve excellence and a true sense of identity. But left unchecked or knocked out of balance, they can enslave us.” Hang with me here friends. Anything that hinders a loving relationship with God can become an idol from actual things to food, exercise, relationships and as we’ll see over the next few weeks this goes wildly deeper. Sometimes these things are taking the place of already disordered relationships, or a disordered identity sometimes known as imposter syndrome or feeling like a fraud. Over the last few years I’ve had the thought that perhaps quilting has in some way an idol, it’s not so much the quilting itself as a form of art, as something to achieve excellence, to get to know more of who I am as a person in relationship with God; in some ways the desire for “likes” and “praise” and “atta girls” and “oh you’re so good at this” make me wonder if I’m really seen. On these social media channels the potential exists to puff up my ego in a way that, if I’m not careful, I’ll allow to drive a wedge between me and God and me and the people I’m in relationship with. So just as I’ve been looking at how I’m spending time, it is important for me to honor God in my work in part in the actual doing of said work and achieving excellence doing the very best that I am able in this moment. To continue learning and trying new ways to teach so that those entrusted to my teacherly, nurturing care are able to make strides in their own quilting path. This also means that I need to be willing to make mistakes that *I* let you see. In another post I will share more of what I mean by this however for now let’s just say fear of making mistakes is that idol that uh yeah.
The further I read into this chapter the more I realized that the Ten Commandments, and it’s sister statements in the Golden Rule are Love Notes from a God who is allowing us the opportunity to rightly order our relationships. Ideally from that our other relationships with people, and work, and things will become rightly ordered. This is
our my opportunity to really look at the layers of “protection” built up over the years, with the hurts, the shame of my own faults, and heartaches beginning to discard them with intention, realign them with a loving relationship with Love, and see these as stepping stones on this part of my existential journey rather than continuing to build a wall between me and God or me and others. I can already see that some of this will be painful, and then I remember Jesus from his betrayal, condemnation, carrying his cross through the streets, crucifixion, and death.
As a reminder this week we celebrate both the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven and Sunday is Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit!
Sneak peeking ahead Strange Gods is something of a fascinating read, one that has the potential, if we are ready and open to unsettle. Arriving at the end of this book I wanted more, I was totally disappointed it was done.