Last October, I wrote about noticing the natural human energies “that spontaneously act on and within our lives to mobilize our ability to discern, choose, and act.” I wondered what would happen if we paid closer attention and I posed a question:
Would the ancient words [of sacred texts] take on fresh and lively meaning or would new words suggest themselves as more adequate to describe the experience of being called forth, shaped, cajoled, and prodded into becoming ourselves and caring for others by the wild energies that both animate us and confound us with our own possibility?
I could not have imagined the power of the wild energies that were about to energize and confound me. But my absence from the blog tells you something about the way I often react to being simultaneously energized and confounded: I retreat to figure things out. I wrote in my journal in late November 2015.
How does the potter love the clay? He throws it down, then turns it and shapes it. I feel thrown down, but with the exhilaration that comes along with being turned and shaped [alluding to Isaiah 64:7–11].
I’ve been pondering this feeling of being simultaneously thrown down and exhilarated for several months. Today a wonderful image presented itself as a way to frame what has been happening to me, and—as I’ve discovered—to many of the people around me.But now it’s high time to report back for duty. Artists and writers John and Ann Mahan write in their magnificent book, Lake Superior: Story and Spirit*:
…The Ojibway word for “story” is also their word for “spirit.” The two are “one and the same” in traditional Ojibway culture. The word is Adizokan. Everything has a story—rocks, trees, animals, people. And everything is story, and spirit. All of them, all of the rocks, trees, animals, and people, all the story-spirit are known as Adizokanan.
For years my story has been, “I don’t really want ‘to go to church’.” Yet every time I attend an “authentic mass” (indeed, any form of spiritual celebration, no matter the tradition)—acknowledging the essential goodness of all creation, lifting up the possibility of choosing life in every moment, and inviting me to give myself to service in the world—in such a celebration my spirit is uplifted, enlarged, and energized.
For years, this despondency and exhilaration have accompanied anything that has to do with the Christian heritage and the local church. The story-spirit that I am has been living the passing away of the old church that birthed me and the discovery of something new that is calling me. The very “I don’t want to go to church” story has catalyzed a “what is emerging in our very midst” spirit—a spirit of curiosity and fascination with what is happening in my life and the lives of everyone around me.
It’s time to explore the new movements of spirit and the emergence of new stories. It’s time to listen for what the fathers and mothers of the Christian tradition called the “Holy Spirit” that is at work in the hearts and minds of anyone who is paying attention to our world and our interiors—the inside of the outside—where spirit is released and new stories are born.
* Gaylord, MI: Sweetwater Visions. 1998.