As I mentioned in a post last spring, I have joined a small group of local spiritual leaders in a writers’ group. We applied for a grant, didn’t get it, and decided we would create the group anyway (we just wouldn’t get the chance for writers’ retreats and such). Over the past few months, I’ve had the gift of thoughtful, prayerful feedback on a handful of my storytelling meditations on Jesus through the Eyes of Others, including major updates to the two meditations on the Annunciation and Nativity through the Eyes of Mary, which I used in an in-person Advent Retreat Day I led yesterday here in Tucson.
One of the themes that has arisen in this feedback is my tendency to want to direct the experience too much. In essence, I have certain results in mind, certain points I want to make, certain ideas and perspectives that I think are important. I end up writing those into the stories, rather than letting the experiences unfold and giving the reader or listener the chance to discern and develop their own responses to the events.
It’s been eye-opening, and certainly one way that I continue to want, as I reflected last week, to control aspects of life. (In terms of an update, our young friend is still in Eloy, and we must wait, and let go of the results of this story as well!) We all have certain perspectives, and certain lenses through which we view the world and the events we encounter. We want certain results, in our own lives, and for those we love (and, sometimes, for those we find difficult to love!).
We must let go of those intentions. For one thing, we cannot know the Spirit’s desire for another person’s journey. If I attempt to guide you in a certain direction, believing that my vision is “right,” I may impede the results that God desires for you. So…I am learning. The image that came to mind, when talking with my spiritual director, was of setting the table, but then stepping back. What you choose to bring to the table and eat there is up to you.
Another experience that’s reinforcing this notion of letting go of results is an online haiku-writing course in which I’m currently dabbling. (I won’t say I’m “taking” it because I’m only getting to one or two lessons a week, rather than the designed daily flow. The recognition of my own limited time for such projects is part of the reason I made my online retreat an evergreen experience; it’s always live and you can dabble anytime!)
One of the early lessons in this poetry course, which she has entitled Small Silences, is the need to approach poetry writing from a space of silence and stillness. Another is the need to write what is, but resist the temptation to tell the reader what to make of, or do with, what is. In other words, I must let go of results there, too. It’s been liberating, and interesting. (I also get to let go of the traditional 5-7-5-syllable restrictions, and that’s been fun and freeing!) I shared one of my new haikus in the image for today post, and invite you to the table. What do you find in the poem above? What desired results do you need to release?
I will share more of my haikus this week on my Instagram account, so take a look if you’re interested….
Shirin, one of the courses I teach in Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is compassion fatigue. And one of the elements of that is “You are not responsible for the outcome of your work.”. This teaches that we can only carry out our work, our mission, with integrity. Beyond that, the outcomes are beyond our control.
Ah, John, such wise words, and they make so much sense in any context! Thank you for sharing them, and Advent blessings to you as well!