A Summer for Transformation
Some of us like to remember summers when we were children as times of rest and relaxation. We might think of summer as a time for vacations, or for catching up, or getting ahead. Summer this year is different. This is a summer for transformation.
Many of us took time during the last year and a half for reflecting, reading, and resting. We have stayed at home, protecting ourselves and those we love. Our schedules have not included much traveling.
Some of us have taken good, clear looks at our lives and our priorities. We have burrowed down and, we hope, planted the seeds of changed lives.
This summer is when those seeds we have planted begin to bloom, a summer for transformation.
Like good farmers we have chosen what we want to grow and prepared the soil of our lives. We planted according to our plans. Month after month we tended our crops and worked to keep out weeds.
We could feel the growth begin in us, even when we were impatient to see its results. There were long months when we wondered whether our work would even bloom.
Now is a summer for transformation. This is when we learn what sort of transformation is taking place in us.
Will our lives be transformed as we expect? What control, or influence, will we have over how we grow?
How will we be transformed, and can we prepare for future growth?
This summer for transformation holds lessons for each of us. Will we pay attention and recognize how we are being transformed?
This is a summer we will remember. Our memories will not be about where we went on vacation or what we ate. We will remember the summer when we began to feel safe after the pandemic.
Appreciating a Summer for Transformation
Some of us believe our past experiences determine how we live our lives. They see us following the examples we have experienced. Our lives are responses which reflect the ways we have seen others respond.
Others of us advocate taking personal responsibility for our own lives. Whatever circumstances we have faced in the past, they say, we choose our own lives. They urge us to make wise choices and put them into practice.
While there is truth in both perspectives. I see things another way.
Our lives, I believe, are more than how we react to our past or the sum total of our own choices. Spiritual life is alive and at work in us, transforming us from the inside out.
Yes, it is important for us to take the opportunities we have to spend time in reflection. Our present and our future have not already been determined by what we have experienced. Our experience of the pandemic might shape how we live this summer, but will not determine it.
We also recognized there are ways of living we have struggled to build into our lives, or to avoid, for years. Sometimes it seems there is nothing in our control we can do to change ourselves.
Some of us work hard to practice our way out of unhealthy patterns of behavior. We struggle to be better people.
I do not believe spiritual practices are ways to force ourselves to become different people. We do not practice our way into more perfect lives. I believe spiritual practices are how spiritual life helps us get out of our own way.
Spiritual life lives within and through us. Gradually, over time, the seeds it plants in us begin to bloom and transform us.
Celebrating This Summer for Transformation
Many of us have difficulty trusting spiritual life. We may have been disappointed and we would like to control what spiritual life is doing within us. Our desires and expectations can stop us from recognizing how spiritual life blooms within us.
Some of us were taught spiritual life is about being quiet, not making a fuss, and listening to someone else preach at us.
It took time, and lots of reflection, to transform my appreciation of spiritual life and how it lives within me.
I am celebrating this summer for transformation by not rushing into any new normal. There is no reason to force ourselves to pick up where we left off or start again as quickly as we can.
This is not a summer for transformation by trying to force ourselves to bloom. Spiritual life working and living within us transforms us, not our own expectations.
My summer is more about being awake to what is blooming in me than making sure everything is in the right spot.
The celebration, and the transformation, are about spiritual life.
Enjoying This Summer for Transformation
Some of us feel guilty about coming through the pandemic unscathed, or surviving it at all. Others of us feel relieved we and our families faced hardships and behaved wisely.
The virus continues to infect people around the world and mutate into new variants. As it spreads, it finds new ways to infect people and continue spreading. We might feel we have gotten past the pandemic, but this could be the eye in the center of the storm.
This summer is our opportunity to allow what spiritual life is planting and tending within us to bloom and transform us. We may become more contemplative, reflecting on what our experiences have to teach us. Some of us are becoming more aware of the needs of the people around us, and around the world.
We are not transforming our lives by forcing ourselves into new habits.
Spiritual life is at work in us, revealing itself to us as we reflect on it. The seeds it plants in our lives are blooming in this summer for transformation.
Our responsibility is to be receptive soil, to allow the seeds planted by spiritual life to bloom and transform us.
What will we do today to help us celebrate this summer for transformation?
How will this summer for transformation change the rest of this year?
[Image by Parvin]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.