08 February 2007

"Nada te turbe"

It's been a pretty encouraging week. Aside from my Comprehensive Exam prep class - which drains and stresses me so much that I have to go take a nap once I'm out of class - everything this week has been going my way. When I read these words by Teresa of Avila this afternoon, they went down sweet and sugary, like a savory dessert:

Let nothing disturb you;
nothing dismay you;
all things pass,
but God never changes.
Whoever has God lacks nothing:
if you only have God, you have more than enough.


Dr. Childers (a.k.a. "J. Chill", thanks to Xander) repeats words from Teresa* to soothe our nervous spasms in Comps: "All will be well and all manner of things will be well." (I remember being the obnoxious one of the summer mission team who kept repeating that phrase over and over as we were each dragging three over-sized suitcases from one airport in London to the other. My teammates were models of forbearance.) Yes, aside from when you're being painfully upbeat while everyone else pulls their hair out (in reference to me, not "J. Chill"!), these words are comforting like a nice warm cup of tea.

But it turns out that those words were not only meant to be my afternoon verbal tea.* I needed them desperately tonight... and I think I'll need them more over the coming days. After all, these words of consolation are just that - they bring reorientation in a time of dismay. They are not written for sun-drenched afternoons alone; Teresa's speaking to moments of desolation, big and small. My "desolation" tonight was comparatively small. I was so eerily quiet and serious while on the phone that Amber thought someone had died. But it's not as serious as that.

After a time of latent pessimism about the church, I was feeling some fresh hope. It was like a lamp turned on to illumine a dark room, leaving a few shadowy corners, but hinting that even they might be transformed at the flick of a switch. I was thinking, "It's just as we've been hoping all along. God might actually be at work here!" I'm usually bubbly - this week I've been bubbling over.

Tonight the lamp is flickering a bit. I'm reminded that lights can be turned off as easily as turned on. There's nothing like a little discouragement riding on the coattails of newborn excitement to take the wind out of your sails. At first I tasted the acidity of feeling personally slighted. The acidic taste is gone now. If I really believe the story of Jesus, I can't get bent out of shape every time things don't go the way I'd like them to. But I'm still a bit uneasy. What next?

It isn't that God is not at work in the church. God's just not working that fast. God likes to work in conjunction with the people of God... and we're a bit slower, less certain. We're not a "flick of the switch" bunch. We're more like, "Rub the sticks together until they start to smoke and then blow softly for a little while. Add some tinder. Blow some more. (You might have to start over a few times.)" So what I really need is some patience. And, again, these words:

Let nothing disturb you;
nothing dismay you;
all things pass,
but God never changes.
Whoever has God lacks nothing:
if you only have God, you have more than enough.


They aren't warm and fuzzy anymore. (They're definitely not "annoy your teammates with unabated optimism.") But they are consoling. They're something like Gospel.


*Verbal tea?! Wow, how lame can ya get?

* Jared very gently and indirectly pointed out that J. Chill's favorite quote is actually from Julian of Norwich. And he's right of course. I tend to get my female mystics confused. Julian's an English hermit from before the Reformation. Teresa's the founder of the Discalced ('Shoeless') Carmelites - a part of the Catholic Counter Reformation. One of these days it'll all sink in!

4 comments:

Jared Cramer said...

good post kelli. my favorite julian quote is:

"And in this He showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand…I looked at it and thought: What can this be?…It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God."

Donald said...

Oh how I miss J Chill and the MG....

Hope you are doing well my friend!

Kelli said...

Tera and I were just talking today about how none of us can quite figure out how to do MG without you around, DPS! How we miss you!

Amber Joy said...

Truer words were never sculpted on teh shower walls...