Thursday, April 7, 2011
When Way Closes
This past Thursday my mom was awaiting my weekly phone call when i surprised her by ringing the doorbell. "Surprise mom. I'm home". She burst into tears of joy and "Hallelujahs", causing a scene for our surrounding neighbors. After a month of saying difficult good-byes to everyone I love in Kolkata, I was finally embraced by my loved one's in the states.
So why am I home? (you may wonder)
Because I believe "way will open"; this is a Quaker phrase I stumbled upon recently which means the process of discerning one's vocation. This is where I find myself, alongside most other people I know. I believe the last few months of my life I just experienced the flip side of "way will open" when completely out of my control or desire the way I had willed to happen was closing quickly behind me. And clenching my fist around this dream, I fought hard not to let it go, until.... I saw it for what it really was.
Let me be frank; egocentrism. I was in love with an image I desired to maintain- living and serving amongst the poor of Kolkata. Very little of who I am delighted in my daily very undefined work and living there. Many people legitimately are living and serving amongst the poor there, but for me, I was trying to be someone I was not, convinced that was what God required of me. "Surely God could not love a privileged, white, educated, American like myself" my wounded heart tossed and turned. So to earn that "unconditional love" I set out go to the extremes to prove to God and self that I am serious about this Christian thing.
And it took me hitting rock bottom, suffering from anxiety and burnout for me to begin to wonder... "What if this is not about requirements? What if God is genuinely interested in a relationship with me? Not to "use me".... but to just love me.
The moment I decided I wanted to come home was after listening to a speech by Richard Rohr on contemplative prayer. He spoke on how we learn, through meditation and self-awareness, how to recognize and silence our ego as we go before God. The beauty of this is we can only let go of our egocentrism as we grow into the truth of God's love for us. It is the freedom we find in God's unconditional love that naturally transforms us into our better selves. It's not actually something we set out to do, but rather something we grow to receive. It was there I realized my anxiety was because I was trying to will myself into being someone I was not and because I was giving from a place I did not possess.
I recently received a book called "Letting your Life Speak" about vocation which keeps putting words to my experience.
"One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess.... it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place"
This author is teaching me that there is a place in me that does flow with abundance and it is growing into this knowledge of myself from which I will learn my vocation.
So I am home. And as I finally allow the door of India to close behind me, I turn to see a room of many doors before me. It's a bit overwhelming actually. But this time I am not doing this out of my own will. Instead, I am beginning to believe in a love that arms me with new set of questions that will help me along my way. "What brings you joy Melissa? What are you good at? What do you love doing?"
Questions that, for once, allow me to start with the knowledge that I am loved as I am and can trust my inner workings as they were created with love. And use this self-knowing, and the love that invites it to grow, as my guidepost for how I can authentically give out of a place of abundance. And perhaps this one day will lead me back to Kolkata. And perhaps it will not. All I know for certain is for now I am home and this journey continues here.