Driving home from work tonight, this thought: “I need to be living closer to my heart.” Usually when I don’t know where a thought comes from, I do know Who it came from … yeah. This felt like one of those. A God-o-gram flying in on its own wing and a prayer.
Rough day at work. The topic in our religious studies classroom was the intersection of war and terrorism with religion. (Yeah, cover that in one class. Pssh.) Once again I felt the distance between what I’m teaching and how, and what I want to be teaching — or better yet, preaching and pastoring — my way into.
There are places where who we are makes sense. Places of coherence, fit, utility, purpose, passion. And there are places where — as hard as we plan, work, try — we just don’t fit. Sometimes we are not allowed to fit; like those churches that would never let my gay foot in the door, much less behind the pulpit. Sometimes we just don’t fit; like me in this classroom. I can’t like studying religion, or teaching others to study it. I want the doing: the religare at the root of religion, the binding of soul to soul in the work of love.
Those moments come; the minutes by the bedside of a dying friend, who rouses at the sound of my voice and lifts her arms for a tender embrace; the prayers that run through me — as Rilke puts it — like deer through a dark forest; the compassion that settles in behind my heart when conflicts flare, setting up a steady beat for the dance toward what matters most.
Enough, then. Enough of what doesn’t fit. I need to live closer to my heart.
In this my fiftieth year, the year of no excuses, I am doing all I can to commit to my future. I am resigning from works that don’t fulfill, or that don’t need me in particular. I am letting go of what doesn’t fit. I am saying yes to a path that gives me a license to love again with my whole heart, even though it feels like stepping back to the drawing board.
I care less about that than I once did. There was a time not too long ago when going from an M.Div. to a Ph.D. to a CPE internship felt like too big a step back. It may be backwards; it may be sideways; then again, it may just be the sign the universe is waiting for to know that I am serious about this loving business. I will do what it takes to find a place I can live closer to my heart.
Here is the great comfort in the middle of all this not-knowing: every time I look up and wonder or ask, “Are you there?” the answer is yes. Like a toddler at full tilt who suddenly stops running and looks around, calling “MommmMM??” and hears the “Yeeeessss” come wafting back, grace wells up whenever I wait upon it, letting the open place in my heart draw from that endless supply.
Pretty soon I’ll stop putting my foot in this particular slipper; this semester will end, with some students happy and some not, some having learned something and some not. I will have given it a full measure and I will move on.
This summer’s internship will be hard in a different way; I’ll be one of the pages in the book to be studied. I have no idea what the summer holds, what will bubble up out of the pot of my soul. But I do believe I will be a better person, better equipped to love and more practiced at loving. I think I will see more clearly, and be more of who God created me to be.
And I think, come August, I will be living closer to my heart. Thanks be to God, the change’ll do me good.