My denomination has a daily service called the Daily Prayer for Peace. It is offered every day, 365 days a year. It’s not long–only about 15 minutes. But it is a service focused on a number of different aspects of peace–personal as well as world.
I have sat in it for many, many days. Sometimes over the last couple of years, though, I have found it difficult at times to sit through–because I was not at peace…with my job, my church, or myself.
My spiritual advisor helped me get through this time, and one thing that helped was a book we spent a lot of time in–Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther. A lot of books about spiritual direction are written by men, but this one by a woman brought some new perspectives! One chapter talks about the spiritual director as midwife–being present and assisting (when appropriate) in a new birth.
I’d never thought of the spiritual journey in that way before, and it was an image that helped me get through some very difficult times–what St. John of the Cross has identified as “the dark night of the soul.” Birth is rarely easy…usually messy…sometimes seems to go on forever…and yet usually results in something that can be celebrated.
So how are these two things related? Yesterday I was sitting in the Prayer for Peace, looking out at a the garden through the window–and I became aware that finally I was able to look at…and really see…the beauty in that place. I’ve looked out that window before and seen the various plants carefully designed in a Japanese garden, but I didn’t really see. I was still too focused on the process.
I’ve been thinking about the birth of my own son 30 years ago and how thinking of that process has helped me think through this:
I remember that there was pain–and that I almost panicked…no, I did panic. But I can’t bring back the severity of the pain.
The same thing is true of spiritual (re)birth. There is pain, and you will feel the pain for a while. Then you will remember that there was pain–but not the severity of it. Instead, you will grow into the new life you are called to.
What a promise of celebration and peace!