At the end of her gorgeous poem, “Praise What Comes,” the poet Jeanne Lohmann observes, then asks:
At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,
finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God?
At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another
ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?
These poignant questions haunt me and give more beauty to my life. Let me take a turn with just the second one: did I finish my task in the world?
I turn fifty years old this month. So I’ve been spending time with these questions, or their various versions. For a time, I had an obvious answer to that first question: what is my task in this world? To become a minister! Even though I can officially check that off my bucket list, I’m pretty sure that I am not anywhere near done with that task. I think that for a minister, the becoming is a life-long process, like it is to be a parent or a child of one’s own parents – there is always flux, there is always change, there is always the possibility of growth.
I like to think that my task is at the intersection of where my gifts overlap with where the world cries out for help. This is what I told last year’s Affirmation class when I met with them for a “values clarification” workshop. It’s what I would tell you if you asked me. I have it written on a poster in my office, because I need to look at it, often. I
especially need to read its message, sometimes even out loud, when I fall into my deeply-engrained habit of doing too much. Or when I am feeling overwhelmed by all the world’s hurts.
My faith does not allow me to opt out, but neither does it ask me to take it all on. That’s true not only about the world’s hurts, but also about our shared congregational life and our shared Unitarian Universalist life. If you need to sneak a peek at my home-made poster – it’s not fancy at all – just let me know. You’re welcome to take a look, even to sit down with me and talk about the sweet spot overlap and just what your task is in the world.
On a different note, those poignant, poetic questions in that poem? They are going to be what guide the workshop I am leading on October 29 — Writing Your Own Obituary: A Spiritual Workshop. I invite you to bring lunch or eat well at coffee hour, then join us (either in the library or the sanctuary, depending on how many we are) at 12:15. Bring a notebook and writing utensil, or your laptop, and let’s see where we go.
I am blessed to be on this journey with you,