What Next?

When I worked in Washington, D.C., I learned a lot about cycles and systems — how some things, such as freedom and integrity, are permanent, while others, such as administrations and occupations, are fleeting.  Some of my greatest learning came at the end of an election cycle.   People and positions shifted at record speed.  The department in which I thought I’d work for years disappeared overnight.  My boss told me that my marketing colleague and I were “redundant” and that our “skills” were no longer needed.  The whole process was quick, cold and demoralizing.

When I saw my colleague in the hallway, we embraced for a moment, neither of us willing to shatter the brave façade we’d held in public.  As we prepared to walk out the door into the rest of our lives, she gulped back tears and asked, “So, what next?”  I shrugged.  I had no answer.

The days and weeks which followed felt like a slow death.  Then, I realized I was experiencing stages of grief, starting with numbness, then fear, anger and bargaining.  One night I even dreamt that my boss called and said they made a mistake and wanted me back.

As I allowed myself to experience the grief, I cried a river of tears, wrote and rewrote my resume, networked all over town, and told my story to friends and mentors.  Then, I had a tremendous Ah-Ha which moved me toward acceptance: I could be and do anything I wanted.

That Ah-Ha is the place which Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, former directors of Silent Unity and authors of The Quest: A Journey of Spiritual Rediscovery and Adventures on the Quest (© 1993), call “Possibility Junction.”  This is the place on our life journeys where the past is behind us, hundreds of pathways beckon, and life can begin anew.

Now, with another election cycle complete, and with holidays rapidly approaching, we can consider taking some quiet moments to grieve whatever losses we’re experiencing, know the past for what it was, and stay faithful and strong as we discern our own “what next.”

While we pause, we can do some practical things:

  1. List all our fears. When we’re willing to look at them, they lose their power.  And, if we’re willing to sit with them long enough, they’ll reveal what we truly value.
  2. List all our values: the tangibles, such as a comfy bed, family dinners and grandma’s heirlooms, and the intangibles such as beauty, compassion and peace of mind. We can prayerfully consider which truly call to us and bring us joy.  Then we can discern exactly which paths to take and which to avoid.
  3. Meditate, allowing ourselves to imagine, contemplate and write down the possibilities which await.
  4. Rest at our junction as long as we need, so we move on our time, not someone else’s.
  5. Remain non-attached and, as much as possible, suspend judgment about the people, places and things involved so the activity of God, Holy Spirit, can do its divine work.
  6. Above all, trust the wisdom within to reveal itself and to guide us on our way.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Perhaps We’ll Listen

On a recent drive, somewhere along a lush tree-lined road where wildflowers bloom, I “lost” a big-city classic rock station.  As Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers faded away, I channel surfed for other music I’d enjoy.

Wherever I was at the time, nothing tuned in clearly for miles, until I heard Paul Simon singing, “Loves Me like a Rock.”  As I drove further, The Archies followed with “Sugar, Sugar.”  I couldn’t help singing along.

Then, Don McLean began his haunting, beautiful elegy, “Vincent,” one of my dad’s favorite popular songs.  In a moment, I was transported to a time in my childhood when Dad, an artist himself, tried to share some hard-earned wisdom.  Often, when he wanted me to pay attention, he would say: “Listen.  Your Daddy wants to tell you something.”  When I did, I discovered abundant treasures in his insights.  Sometimes, they saved me from going down roads of pain and heartache.

I like to imagine that all the biblical prophets and the wayshower, Jesus, wanted to do the same.  They hoped to share their profound message of God’s unconditional love, infinite compassion and ever-abiding grace, as well as their worldly experience with the people of their time — and by extension, the rest of us now — just as Vincent Van Gogh attempted to share the beauty and wonder he saw in God’s magnificent world.  As some art historians note, Van Gogh believed his first calling was to preach the word of God.

Perhaps this is why McLean’s lyrics tug at our heart strings as much as Van Gogh’s starry night, sunflowers and wheat fields do.

Now I understand, what you tried to say to me

And how you suffered for your sanity

And how you tried to set them free.

They did not listen; they did not know how.

Perhaps they’ll listen . . . now. . . .

For they could not love you, but still, your love was true.

Perhaps some did listen.  Though sometimes, we don’t want to listen.  Or can’t.  Not necessarily because we don’t know how, but because listening takes a lot of faith, patience and spiritual strength.  Because sometimes, listening hurts.  We don’t want to know what we’re being told.  We don’t want to experience our own pain, let alone someone else’s.

If we listen, we believe, we might have to do something.  Or worse, we might not be able to do anything.  Except be present.  To an elder’s wisdom.  To a friend’s deep, dark secret.  To yet another family story.  To an outpouring of emotion we don’t understand.  All of it shared in love – even when we can’t listen.

Few people understood Van Gogh’s gift in his lifetime, though now he is one of our most revered artists.  Few people understood the wisdom and love Jesus and all the prophets attempted to share, though we still endeavor to live as they advised.

Perhaps, no matter what road we’re traveling now, we’ll stop — and take some time to listen.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.