So, I need to leave in three hours to go to California (yes, another stay at our favorite Catholic retreat center), for a training on Pastoral Care for Religious Educators. I haven’t done my homework. We were supposed to read a book – “The Helper’s Journey: Working with people facing grief, loss and life threatening illness.” I have to say, I find myself a bit intimidated by that kind of title (so I spent the week nursing a cold with some historical fiction).
In many ways, not for the first time, this is a post about procrastination. I like my job and I like my life, so why do I put off the things that I have myself chosen to do. One of my friend’s thinks procrastination increases pressure, and that she for one produces better work under pressure. Another friend, M., thinks procrastination is a way of avoiding failure. If we are always putting things off we are never giving life are all, and if we are never giving life our all, we aren’t ever really trying and subsequently can’t ever really fail. My own procrastination style probably lies somewhere between these truths.
So, this morning, this week, what am I avoiding by putting off work and reading? Often I find that I am reminding myself that I enjoy the work that I do, that I have the privilege of working with so many people in such a meaningful fashion. That the writing I do for my job is creative and fun, that the people I work with (somehow, sometimes) gain something from my presence and performances, and my own soul is nourished working with people in the context of worship and religious education.
That I am going to this training cause 14 months ago a youth in a church a few hours away from where I work committed suicide, and of course there arose within me that wave of – what do I do? I am not prepared for this.
Who is prepared for a tragedy? Who wants the job of explaining such an event to the 16 year olds, 14 year olds, 12 year olds they work with, not to mention their parents? I went to a workshop a few years back on liberal religion and crisis. The speaker (a very witty, very irreverent nun) said the role of liberal religion in crisis was not to give answers but to create the space for people to ask, “Why did this happen” and answer “I don’t know.”
We all have so many questions. And one form of spiritual intimacy can be found in the space we create through the asking of questions, and the reverent silence that can sometimes unfold when we do not loose ourselves seeking answers.
There’s a poem that’s been lingering in my mind for several weeks (we’re using it in service later this month), and I leave you with these words before I drive up a hill south of LA and continue to explore new corners of the work that I do, and perhaps in so doing, come to some deeper understand of why it is that I do (and sometimes don’t do) the work that I have chosen as my own.
Hold fast to dreams
for if dreams die
life is a broken winged bird
that cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
life is a barren field
frozen with snow.
– By Langston Hughes