My Call: A Journey Towards the Spirit
I had the room set up perfectly so that I could find total stillness and contemplation within. No distractions. This was somewhat normal for me during my meditation practice but today was special. I was going to work through a specific mourning ritual that is used to help you let go of your loved one after death. My husband, just a month earlier, had passed away from Stage IV Colon Cancer, and my life had been completely turned upside down. You never really know how grief like that will affect you. A death of this magnitude is so abnormal that you find it quite hard to stick to normal routines, so you just do the best you can, one step at a time. This was a step, and somehow I knew it. My yoga mat laid out, the candle lit and the darkness gathering, I sat down to start my meditation. As I slowed my breath, I said to myself “When I am breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.” “When I am breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.” An ancient breathing exercise, I knew that it calmed my mind and would bring me to where I needed to be. The directions said to have a picture of your loved one in front of you and let the grief pour out. So I did. I asked him how he could have left me here without him. I told him how much I missed him and that every day waking up to the reality of his absence was like reliving a nightmare on repeat. I asked him where he was now. Was he just ash or was he something more? Why did we have to be separated by death? I cried. I sobbed. I questioned him and God. I sat in silence. I knew I didn’t quite understand where my husband was going and wasn’t sure about the reality of a “streets of gold” kind of heaven. Yet I knew that somehow, he was in a place of deep love and peace, without question. I imagined him on his new journey with the Divine and tried to release him into this new life.
As I continued to sit there in meditation, the Spirit kept knocking on my heart. This intense vulnerability with our God tends to be where you find them and in my pain, I knew the Spirit was trying to speak. She has nudged before but this was a harder push. I went away thinking one thing: I need to get ordained. Only through helping others through their pain and suffering, celebrating with others in community and love, and ministering to those who are the least of these can I fulfill the call that the Spirit has put on my heart. What greater purpose in life is there than to journey with your beloved community through all the realness that is this life, all the while serving the Divine in Christian love? Who would have thought that in performing a simple mourning practice, I would have felt such a tug on my heart from the Spirit, yet there it was. I couldn’t go back now. I wouldn’t want to.
Sometimes I wonder why I had not decided to become ordained before my late husband passed. I have been in the ministry for twelve years, worked in many churches in the music ministry, received a master’s degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, and been involved in the church (volunteer or employed) my whole life. Why now? For reasons slightly beyond my grasp of comprehension, this new present reality is when I finally heard and recognized the Spirit’s call. I answered. Just as John Wesley felt his heart “warmed” by the Spirit, so I too felt this mystical warmth of the Spirit’s whisper. Somehow through my pain and lament to God, I had felt the Divine more than ever before. Now I had eyes to see and ears to hear.
As the months dissolved into a year and more, I continued on the path towards healing. I started to eat healthier and take daily meditation walks with my dogs. I developed a more intentional meditation, prayer and spiritual development practice. I continued to meet with people and talk to them about their own pain and suffering. I was asked to perform a wedding by a member of my congregation. It seemed that as long as I kept watering my spiritual garden, the Spirit kept feeding me, and I couldn’t get enough. My friends, family, and spiritual community continuously affirmed that they were seeing something new in me. They were seeing the light of Christ within. It had always been there but somehow, by being forced to dig deep within myself and be vulnerable to the Spirit, I had uncovered what was there all along. Even though the journey was not a straight path to wellness, the twists and turns seemed to be leading me onward, moving forward in the holy unknown. Yet I still had some spiritual issues to contend with. You see, dear reader, my deepest fear was that God had taken my husband away from me because of my own disobedience. I thought that maybe somehow I had done something in life to deserve this sort of punishment. The more I wrestled with this idea, however, the more I realized that didn’t coincide with who I knew God to be. I did not believe God caused my pain but instead worked through it. Your pain is not the result of punishment. It is the result of living in a broken world. I have good news: God works through brokenness!
What if God can use us even at our lowest points, when we are the most confused, the most broken, don’t have all the answers, and still hold on? What if we keep talking to God and begin to ask the hard questions? What if God can use this undeserved pain to make us better, stronger people so that we can create goodness in the world? The most precious gift we have to offer is a gracious spirit and a contrite heart. I don’t believe that God wants a dry obedience; God wants our heart.
God want to be with us, in the midst.
Being in that vulnerable state, a place where you can be intimate with the Spirit, where your heart is broken and your pain is real, when you have nothing else to hold onto, this is when we realize that pain can be used as the beginning of your transformation. Author and researcher Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the doorway to relationship, so why would a true connection with the Spirit be any different? We can draw our power from our vulnerability. What I had been through, my story was the beginning of my journey towards being a true disciple of Christ. Our human story is built on this dualism: from suffering to hope, from pain to joy, from grief to resilience, from death to life. We cannot have one without the other. I knew that in being in solidarity with others, in joining them on their own journey through these extreme hills and valleys of life, I was exactly where I needed to be.
So this is my prayer: that I can show others where hope can be grasped in their own journey and join them as they build that hope into their lives, in both their sorrow and joy. I want to encourage others through speaking, writing, and worship that hope can be found in a broken world and show them how we can use or own stories and the stories of God’s people to make this world a more beautiful one. I believe that at the depths of human suffering and pain, part of the human condition, can lie a spiritual super power: the ability to use your own suffering to transform yourself and those around you, forging a path to know God in a way we possibly couldn’t or didn’t know how to before. The Spirit is ready and willing to be in relationship with you, but our own ego tends to get in the way. We are so enamored with ourselves, that we sometimes forget to see the higher and greater reality before us at every moment in our present. My greatest desire is to be in a genuine relationship with God and those around me. I hope to inspire people to think beyond this world, beyond their own ego, to something higher. I want point to God in all that I do, always pointing to love with every breath that I breathe and word that I speak. It’s a lofty goal, and I will fall short, but I will continue to keep trying every day. As a recent widow, I found spiritual depth in the midst of suffering and loss. It made me contemplate my own existence in a way nothing else had. We have the choice every day to wake up and decide who we want to be and how we want to respond to the world around us. Will we seek God’s Spirit of love, or will we seek our own ego?
Through my own pain, I have learned that this is not the end. As Jesus revealed on the cross, death does not stop the Divine. The Divine laid with us in suffering, in the human condition, as a sign of His radical solidarity with his creation. Now, what can I do to begin anew, to build a beautiful life that helps others in the midst of their pain? What can I do to give them hope and walk in solidarity with them, as Jesus did during his ministry? How can I show others that God is in the midst of it all and that we, his disciples, are the ones who show the Divine’s presence in this broken world? We are the Christ in the world, transforming it, disciple-by-disciple, living out the truth of love and it’s power. I believe the Spirit has called me to do this as a pastor within the local church, and I am ready to be transformed, to create hope and change within my beloved community, be partners with the Spirit to truly transform Her people into God’s kin-dom, and be the Christ I know dwells within me.
Picture by Becky David Hensley, Edits by Laura Byrd
 Psalm 51:17 (NRSV)