“Conversation is one of the most important things you can do for your soul – thinking and reflecting – and wondering opens us into a bigger life.” ~Thomas Moore
Truth be known, we all have encountered unexpected pivotal moments in our lives that change us forever. These are Soul gifts that keep on giving and they have much to teach us.
Today, I share with you one of these moments in my life. In turn, please share with me and others in your life, a life experience that has proven to be vital to who you are and how you choose to live your life today.
“On its way towards us, destiny travels silently, until it arrives. Then something we had never expected becomes loud around us.” ~ John O’Donohue
The day was twenty-three years ago. I remember it as if it is happening in this very moment.
The Church is full. The sunlit stained glass windows are displaying the stories of the Saints of old and reflecting colored beams of radiant light throughout the Sanctuary. I am filled with exuberant joy in anticipation of this festive celebration day. The Music – The Procession – The Choir – are all magnificently glorious. The Ordination Liturgy is now in process. Finally, this day has arrived.
Kneeling on the marble floor for some time now, I am acutely aware that my forty-six-year-old knees are killing me and, at the same time, my spirit is soaring. The other nine ordinands are walking forward to be ordained as their names are called one by one. Being the tenth, the last in the succession, I am wondering how much longer my knees will hold and will I be able to stand up and go forward when my name is called.
The anticipated moment comes, right on cue; I hear the Bishop calling my name. I know the rehearsed drill; I am clear on what to do. Before I make a move, internally I hear the words ringing through me, ‘Susan, do not give away what I have given you.’ I am in total shock; I am almost as numb as my knees. Caught off guard and utterly confused, I ask, ‘Lord, what do you mean? Is this not what the last thirteen years of preparation has been all about? Has it not been so I can give to others what you have given to me?’ There is only silence on the other end. Meanwhile, the Bishop is waiting. Clear that the words I just heard and the mysterious message they hold are a gift (a gift I do not want to give away), I make a commitment to the Lord to ponder their meanings in the days to come. I stand, go forward, and I am ordained a Priest in the Episcopal Church.
The next day, faithful to my commitment, I asked myself, ‘What is it in actuality that God has given to me? ’ What is it specifically that I am not supposed to give away?’ Before long, it became clear that I was directing this question to the wrong source: myself – the ‘I’ part of me. How did that happen? I knew experientially that Divine truth can only be known through the gift of Divine grace. It was sobering to realize how easy it is to blindly slip into ‘do it myself’ mode in an eager attempt to know and do God’s will. Clearly, this is a sure way not to discover what God has given. This was a wake -up call for me to stay conscious of allowing my Soul to be present to God’s gift of grace. Only then, can I begin to glimpse the deeper truth of the fullness of my Divine Inheritance and be empowered to put it into action.
In time, it became apparent that this initial learning served as a preparation for future experiences. It was through the lens of these ‘learning opportunities’ that a more expansive meaning of the message began to unfold. Through my experience as a novice female clergy assistant, working under male rectors in a male-dominated [especially in those days] hierarchical church, I first began to understand how critical it is that I practice listening to my Soul to know God’s truth for me and use the wisdom to act upon it.
In those early days, I began the practice of ‘taking a Holy pause’: stopping and listening to my Soul for God’s truth before allowing myself to automatically accept the judgments or projections of others or my own. As I practiced this, it became evident that I can trust God’s grace to allow me to see a bigger truth beyond human judgments and the underlying fear that drives them. With this deeper truth came expanded compassion for others and myself. In a similar way, I began to stop and listen to my Soul for God’s truth in light of my preconceived assumptions about myself, others, the world, the Church, and God. What became clear to me is that central to the call of being an instrument of God’s love and transformational power is the call to increasingly know and refuse to give away the fullness of my uniquely designed God-given life. Only in this way, can I be an empowered vessel who encourages others to do the same.
The gift of those unexpected words, given to me so many years ago, continues to bless and inform me. The message that they convey is forever proving to shape who I am today and how I choose to live my life. I share it with you today because it is at the heart of what it means to be a Soul Alive Woman.
What is it in actuality that God/Source has given to you? In what ways do you see yourself refusing to give away your Divine Inheritance? May each of us increasingly deepen our innate ability to profoundly listen to our Soul’s truth. May we grow in the wisdom and knowledge of what God has given us and practice not giving this away. As always I would love to hear from you.
Suggested Soul Practice: Take A Holy Pause
Suggested Reflection Exercise: Unexpected Pivotal Moments in Your Life
Suggested Book: A Woman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle, by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Guest Contributor: Life Lessons Shared by Deacon Karen Chavez
The wind blows and although I cannot see it, I know it is real. The wind blows when and where it will, sometimes with awesome power and I cannot control it. Although I cannot see or control it, if I recognize it as real and respect its power, I can utilize its energy.
The Holy Spirit of God moves in my soul. I visualize her as a woman, a woman of strength, wisdom, and grace. She is the force that breathed me into life 65 years ago and the force that, if I let her, moves me in directions I never knew I could take. She is a force in every life. In fact, she is the very life force of the universe.
A storm was brewing in Paula’s life. Paula was my first friend. We learned to walk, pray, and love together. When her children were grown and gone and she was retired from teaching, the winds of change began to brew. Paula could feel it coming and she was anxious because she didn’t know what course she should take. She did not yet understand that she could not choose the way of the wind; the Spirit would choose it for her. She let the Spirit lead her to a garbage dump in Honduras where she met a 12-year-old girl who supported herself and family, in spite of being born into poverty, right there in the dump. She did it by prostituting herself to the garbage truck drivers so that they would dump the best of the garbage at her site. The power of the Spirit blew Paula’s comfortable life apart and it was changed forever. Now, Paula’s life is dedicated to victims of human trafficking and she spends part of her time each year traveling to Cambodia where she does what she can to help in transitional programs to get young girls out of the appalling life of the brothel.
We are so used to measuring people’s worth by the money and property they acquire. Is any child worth only garbage? Is any person’s value really measured in dollars and cents? Yet people are sold every day. In the case of trafficked prostitutes, the goods are cheap and reusable, unlike drugs that must be replaced after they are sold in order to make another sale. Once lured into the pimp’s lair, the same girl can be sold up to 15 times in a night. Marketed on corners and the internet, she can be kept cheaply and when her usefulness is ended, she is disposed of.
Paul’s telling of the story of the little girl in the dump has stayed with me for years. Now, the wind of change is blowing in me too. When Paula asked me to go on a trip with her last year, I prayed and the spirit whispered, “not yet.” Now, I am beginning to feel the direction that I am meant to take.
The victims of trafficking are not just in those far-away places. My own county in Southern California has a safe house that harbors 6,000 victims of trafficking a year. 70% are women and 50% are children. Most of the men and boys (as well as some of the women) are used as slave labor in the agriculture industry, but some also end up in the sex industry. Some are brought in from other countries, but many are from the streets of America. The magnitude of the problem could keep me stagnate, but the power of the Spirit moves me. This is happening in my community and I have a small but solid influence in this community; this is where I need to take action.
My soul is energized and my mind and body follow. I am only in the beginning phases of this movement. I am collecting data and bringing more of the information to my congregation and to the interfaith community. Only the Spirit knows where she will lead me next. I will go where the wind blows.
Karen Chavez, Deacon [Episcopal Church]
To learn more about Human Trafficking, read the UN’s Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking and the UN Chronicle’s article on “Prevention, Prosecution, and Protection – Human Trafficking.”