November 14, 2013

Big Blue Skies and Transition

Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.

I had heard that the sky out west was bigger, more bold. I had no idea what that meant until I did my 30 day Ignatian retreat in Tahoe City, California, on the shores of Lake Tahoe. There are fantastic trails all around the lake and I spent a good part of my days out hiking. As I look back on those 4 weeks, what I remember most is looking up at the sky. Except for one day of my retreat, the sky was cloudless, a blue so deep and clear, you thought you could see forever. On some evenings, I went out to the parking lot in front of the small apartment where I was living and I’d lay on the cement to look up at the sky. Along with millions of individual stars, satellites, and shooting stars, I could see the Milky Way, that gossamer cosmic cloud. Stunning!

The sky was more than just a feast for my eyes. It became the outward and visible sign of inward grace available to guide our heart and mind and spirit in a time of change and transition. I live in a large urban area with high humidity, frequently overcast skies, its own fair share of smog, lots of buildings, and a list of a million to-do’s I spend a lot of time on. Parish work is so much about the concrete and the detail: The bulletin that needs to be ready for Sunday. The person who needs a pastoral visit. The latest communication breakdown that needs to be resolved before it snowballs. I imagine I am not alone when I admit that I spend a lot of time looking down because I am anxious to take each next step carefully. The clutter of everyday ministry reduces my line of sight. The skies above Tahoe reminded me there is another way; that we can look at our work against the horizon of eternity.

Against that horizon of eternity, what in our work is essential? How big, important and meaningful is any one decision, action, or situation? Looking at the immensity of the sky, I have to ask if I, or if my faith community, set goals that are too small, too safe, too limited, and too limiting? A time of transition brings with it a lot of anxiety and a desire to ‘get things right’ for the next part of the story. We try to manage as many aspects of change as possible and can get swamped in the details. Whether a group of leaders in your community has been asked to steward a process of transition or you yourself are in that situation, you might want to take some time to go out where your line of vision extends towards infinity, to a place that reminds you that Earth, our wonderful island home, is a sacrament of God’s spaciousness. It’s amazing what we are able to see as possibility in the spaciousness of God love.