Because in the school of the Spirit,
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting,
how to speak by silence,
how to live by dying.
-Johannes Tauler

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ultimate End

So does it end here? 
Julie and I have come to the conclusion of our "experiment" in taking on a spirit of poverty. 
What do we do now? 

I can only speak for myself, but I believe the year has taught many lessons. Like other educational experiences, some lessons stick while others do not, but with time I will continue to learn more and more because of the seed that has been planted in the soil of poverty I have prepared. Irregardless of the details of our endeavor and all it entailed, whether we have ultimately succeeded or failed or done something in between, the greatest impact I hope to find as I move forward is the gift of pause. I have found immense wealth in taking a moment to ponder what is before me - not operating on auto pilot but asking questions and seeking answers below the surface. 

Truly, it is not only in regard to material possessions that one can be rich or poor - I believe we have thoroughly established that throughout the year - and so it is not strictly in not buying anything that one fully takes on a spirit of poverty. There is something so much greater involved, and it is something we can only discover if we are looking and listening with our hearts. 

I do not claim to have come anywhere near mastering what this means, but as I carry this blessed time in my heart, with all the riches I have gained and all the poverty I have faced, I will continue to seek an understanding of how the Lord is asking me to use this "experiment" for His glory. My search could lead anywhere: perhaps to choosing a life of poverty, or serving those in poverty who have no choice. 

Ultimately, seeking a deeper union with Our Lord is the end, and if a spirit of poverty, however radically lived, is the greatest means, than please may I, and all of us, receive the grace to drop our nets and follow Him. +

Thank you for your prayers and support. God bless you. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"dirty" laundry

Was anyone else raised this way? We used our towels once growing up...and then put them in the dirty clothes pile. I think my family still does this, but I long ago dropped this habit out of necessity (a girl can only have so many towels in her dorm room, and can only do so much laundry!) However recently, I've noticed that I often do this with my clothes: I wear them and take them off and put them in the hamper and don't usually give a second thought to whether they're clean or dirty or smelly or disheveled or in perfectly good shape - into the washer they will go, anyway! 

The beautiful thing about getting older is that we become wise enough, or at least speculative enough, to question all that we have been taught from a young age and make a choice. Sometimes that choice includes a change for ourselves, but just because I have now begun to do things differently in my own life does not mean I need to subject anyone in my family to making a change as well.

So I'm trying to wash my laundry less, and trying to realize that things aren't as dirty or as bad as they seem. A freshly washed wardrobe is not going to get me closer to heaven, and just as clothes do not need to be perfectly pressed, neither do people. In many things, there is a poverty (and sanctifying grace!) in accepting how things even when we know how they could be, and shifting our focus to the really important questions of our pilgrimage on earth: "Am I striving for holiness?" and "Am I helping those around me do the same?" Poverty is detaching from the pursuit of worldly perfection, yet always reaching for that perfection to which our Heavenly Father calls us (Mt. 5:48) and bringing others with us. St. Augustine says, "Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while you strive for the perfect." This strikes right at my heart because it is something I struggle with so often. I do need to do a little laundry: soul laundry. I should be focused on washing my soul more often than washing my clothes...if it isn't actually dirty or smelly or disheveled then I don't need to wash it. What I do need to do is start looking at the things that do stink in my life - my sins - and in the poverty of humility, confess them. The laundry detergent of reconciliation is free, as the Lord of mercy and compassion gives it freely through Jesus Christ, and it smells sweeter than all the fragrances of the world. +