A Lifeline in the Blizzard

When a new semester starts I usually feel a bit overwhelmed at the full fall ahead. I decided I had tagged the commitments facing me this fall “Demands,” and needed to retag them as “Opportunities.”

To that end I committed to a change in the way I begin my mornings. Rather than begin each day with an anxious litany of “things Alyce has to do,” I pledged to begin it with prayer and some spiritual reading. I have a shelf next to my prayer chair in the corner of my office full of books related to spiritual formation. The volumes include both historical and contemporary works. Because I had no precise picture of what I was looking for, I closed my eyes and picked a book. It was Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward the Undivided Life. The book begins in this way

There was a time when farmers on the Great Plains, at the first sign of a blizzard, would run a rope from the back door out to the barn. They all knew stories of people who had wandered off and been frozen to death, having lost sight of home in a whiteout while still in their own backyards.

So there’s my metaphor for the fall. Tying a rope to the door as I venture out into classroom, church and community. Making sure I can always get back home to the “why” amid all the “whats.”

Palmer’s conviction is that we are divided selves- that many times our principles and our actions don’t match up. The signs of the divided self are, according to Palmer,

A “still, small voice” speaks the truth about me, my work, or the world. I hear it and yet act as if I did not.

I withhold a personal gift that might serve a good end or commit myself to a project that I do not really believe in. I keep silent on an issue I should address or actively break faith with one of my own convictions. I deny my inner darkness, giving it more power over me, or I project it onto other people, creating “enemies” where none exist. (p. 5)

Add to the blizzard of personal division we all participate in, the divisions that surge in the world around us where factions clash in Egypt and Syria with rising death tolls and where  racial divisions persist 50 years after Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

All the more reason to keep one hand on that rope amid the blizzard of injustices, opportunities, events, demands and quandaries that lie ahead. All the more reason to remember daily to find our way back to the One who is our home base and who, on our best days, is the way we approach our world and the motivation for doing the things we do.

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