I got the call on an early Monday morning. “Hi, Gilbert, it’s Bob from L’Arche DC.” My heart pumped rapidly, and I started getting shaky with my phone as if I was going to hear something tragic…or something exciting.
“We are welcoming you to come join us, but with one huge stipulation. You see, we tried having you come as soon as you can, but we just don’t have any more rooms for anyone else right now. So, if you do join us, it’s going to have to be in May.”
I felt relief. It was over. My wandering had reached a point of clarity. I now had a date to start my new adventure with a fantastic organization and incredible people. I sighed ever so deeply.
“I am happy to hear about this opportunity and I assure you, I have no problem with the date.” And I replied with a huge grin on my face.
I’m sure they were hesitant about whether I would be accepting their offer. Afterall, I had expressed my eagerness to join them as soon as possible, and that I was even laid off from my current ministry sooner than I thought. I was definitely welcome to the idea of moving to the East Coast in the dead of winter if it meant having a stable income AND health insurance.
Yet, despite my pronounced eagerness, I had pondered over an important detail that kept my eagerness in check. In fact, there was hardly any talk about it– it was a detail only mentioned once. They did not know that I had prepared myself on the spiritual, emotional, and mental level to accept the possibility of a late starting date rather than an immediate one. They had mentioned that I may not be able to move in as soon as the summer of 2014. Nonetheless, they only needed to mention that possibility once in order for me to consider it.
I had to do some inner work even prior to being prepared to accepting a later start date. I had shared with you all that I was frustrated wandering, and that I was so very ready to do something that would lead to a more settled life. (Read my blog post on “Wandering”.) I had to allow myself to be very upset at God, to be very upset at myself for not fulfilling my own expectations, and to just sorrow over all of it.
But as much as I kept posing the question to God, “What do you specifically want me to do,” I also tried to be positive about my situation by counting all the blessings I did have: awesome friends, an amazing family, living in one of most beautiful parts of the world, and having enough money to not ever worry about my basic necessities. I let myself sorrow, but only during prayer times. It was a psychological method I had randomly read about, that healthy people will allow themselves to feel their depth of grief, loss, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotions, and then they will commit to feeling content and resolute in their purpose of being the rest of the day. If anyone would be willing to listen to me complain and rant, it would be God. God could handle anything, and so I decided to let God have it: my tears, my shaking of my fist, my thoughts of being destructive to myself or to items that I used for worship. Yes, I did imagine myself throwing my bible across the church, or ripping apart my rosary beads, and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Why are you forsaking me!! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT ME TO DO!” But all this was in my head; I never felt the need to act out such fantasies.
I remember these times also bringing a sense of enlightenment. I remember sometimes walking away from my prayer and feeling content…a deep peace. I never received a voice in my head; just a feeling that I was going to be ok. Alas, I did not have my anger and frustration wiped away. I would start feeling upset about my lack of career path, lack of choices, and feel negative about my life after a couple of days, sometimes the very next day.
Yet, I was being mystically consoled. Meaning, I didn’t feel good about venting my frustration, but I felt ok. I felt strength in continuing to do the only thing that was the best thing to do: place one foot in front of the other. And to do that 100 times, 500 times, then 1,000 times until I reached my destination. Thank you, Lao Tzu for that wise saying.
I mentioned in my blog post “Wandering” that my listlessness meant I had no clue when I was going to stop feeling nomadic about my life. I felt solidarity with the Hebrew people who were in an exodus state for such a long time, and their story recounts all the vocalized frustrations they had with God. I suddenly felt more pity for them than for God, because I knew how bad it meant to me to have some sort of timeline, and I could not imagine walking around for an unstated period. I would have joined them in their complaints, and would have told Moses, “This sucks, man! Let’s just go back to Egypt, cause at least we know how to get there and how long that would take!”
I just wanted a timeline of when my wandering would stop. “Please, God, is that too much to ask?” And then I got it.
As you might have guessed from reading the beginning of this post, I called an organization called L’Arche Washington DC. I knew I would love to work for them, and in that initial conversation the recruiter mentioned a significant fact, “Yeah, we love accepting new people and I hear what you are saying and I know what you are looking for. But I do want to mention that it’s more probable for you to find a placement with us in the summer time than finding one now in the winter time. We do have one or two spots to fill, but I just can’t guarantee you that you would get one of them this month.”
Those may have not been exactly the recruiter’s words, but they held the utmost important fact that I needed to embrace: I may not be able to join them until summer time. To this very day I still remember those words being spoken, and my heart had a sinking feeling. I was tired of wandering and I wanted to do something incredibly meaningful RIGHT. NOW. Yet, because I had been pleading with God for awhile to give me a timeline, I felt this was a nudge in my gut that the possibility of my acceptance in the summer of 2014 wasn’t just a possibility, but an answer God gave me; after all, it was a timeline. Not as soon as I was hoping for, and yet, it was still sooner than 40 years. I was being given more compassion than the Hebrews had obtained.
So when it came to hearing the first week of January that I was welcomed to begin in May, I wasn’t disappointed. I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait anymore. I had a timeline to work with, and I was already hustling for jobs and making enough money to live and have some fun. I was excited to announce to my family and friends WHEN I was destined to live somewhere new, and do what I love.
I had to die to the idea that a timeline was going to follow my ideal timeline. I had to surrender to the God that took care of me at every moment of my life, and stop doubting that I was going to be left behind. In my surrender, I gain so much more life. I had stopped being angry during my prayer because I felt I did have purpose: to be the best of myself for the sake of others: to be incredibly friendly, wonderfully kind, somewhat goofy, and at all times be of a spiritual mind.
This is how God wants it: to be resolute in my faith so that I might inspire others, and to enjoy the love given to me so that I might be able to make time to love and serve others even when it’s inconvenient to do so.
We are all promised to experience death and resurrection in our journey. But I don’t believe it has to only mean physical death, but it also includes inner death to expectations that frustrate us. Resurrection does not have to be a promise we wait for, but in fact it’s what God wants us to live out RIGHT. NOW. If we’ll just trust Him.
The second reflection on this is about what Resurrection looks like. I will write that post 2 months, if not 7 months from now.