The work that is yours to do

I was writing to you yesterday, the post about wedding music, and in the aftermath, honestly battling with myself over it – not because I regret anything I said, and not because I’ve changed my mind, or any of that.

More, it’s that as time goes by, and maybe as I get older, or the world just plain changes, I am more and more weary of the arguments frankly for or against anything. That need to be right, that need to make you be wrong, the addiction to persuasion and judgment… it’s tiring. On some days, it’s boring. I worry if the noise distracts us from the real work of showing up in the world, paying attention, really loving.

Which isn’t to say it’s all worthless, a chasing after the wind, so to say. Words have power, and speaking up is important. Having a voice is important. Especially for those whose voices are stolen, to speak is life and justice and progress.

But more and more, the people I am drawn to, the ones who I hope to become like, are the ones who in the face of the chaos, the echo chambers, the vehemence simply put their head down and get to work. And they’re not out to fix all the problems like some messiah figure who has all the answers, but they put their head down and get to their own work, the thing they do best offered into the space that is uniquely theirs, them in their glory offering something true and illuminative to the world.

It’s a slow and steady faithfulness, an unwillingness to be blown and tossed by the storms. The world may be ending all around them, but they’re organizing a gathering, or working at the easel or the potter’s wheel, or they sit biting at their eraser carefully choosing the next word, or they’re crafting the questions that will invite someone else to show up and speak their truth, or they’re at the cutting board with a mountain of onions and garlic and a truly holy amount of butter (you know how much).

And it’s funny, because at moments they can seem so focused, so single-minded and it’s easy to wonder if they don’t hear the noise, or if this is somehow self-centered, but the truth is that the more they live in the center of who they are, the more it becomes evident that their lives are lived for the sake of others.

If there has been one challenge for me in this last season of life in community, it has been this: figuring out how to tune out the noise and focus on showing up fully as myself in the world, and how to live a life that is lived for the sake of others.

I don’t mean that in a self-sacrificial way. Do you know what I mean when I say that? I mean, particularly for women, there’s this temptation or struggle or whatever, maybe an expectation, that we are to set aside self in sacrifice for others, not once but as a raison d’etre, a way of life, making others happy or their lives run smoothly at a dear cost to who we are, maybe our dignity even. And that’s not what I mean.

What I do mean is something like showing up in the integrity of who you are, who I am, and recognizing that the world doesn’t need us to be anyone else other than who we are. We were not made to run from political garbage fire to political garbage fire, but instead we are to stand in the gifts and callings that are uniquely ours, and trust that the community around us will stand in theirs, and together as a web of interdependence, we will be faithful.

I don’t think we’ve gotten this. I certainly haven’t gotten this. When the child immigrant detention center moved in a mile or so from my house this past summer, I panicked. I couldn’t organize, I couldn’t even see straight. I had grandiose visions of illegal solutions. Thank God for friends who could talk me back from the brink.

I keep thinking about something Fr. Gregory Boyle said a few weeks back when he preached at Holy Family. “How will we learn that we belong to one another?”

How will we?

And do we even know what it means to belong to one another in a culture of consumerism and possessing our possessions and all the ways this forms us? But I digress.

I sometimes think that in the face of the unthinkable, we forget that we belong to one another, or how to belong to one another. It’s ironic, because in those moments of emergency, I think we think we’re working for one another, when in reality, instead of working like a well-oiled machine, we’re like panicking ants scattering, doing something, anything to solve the pain. We look productive, there’s so much frenetic activity, but in it, we forget ourselves instead of remembering what it means to be us.

I think part of that process of learning we belong to one another is in standing in our integrity, doing the work that is ours to do, and letting the noise be noisy for itself. And sometimes, I wonder if the best question we can ask in the midst of argument is that one that Fr. Boyle asks: “How will we learn that we belong to one another?”

It is cold in east Texas today, with wind chills that lead to bone chills. I am wearing the wool socks and on my kitchen counter are onions and garlic, white beans and jalapenos (which God made, in case you’re wondering, for the occasions when Texas gets cold).

The work that is mine to do today is send these words off to you, then chop and saute and roux my way to a dinner for three, and use up the brown bananas on the counter which have been slowly turning to sugar for a week now. Later a little laundry and a little knitting.

What is the work that is yours to do today?

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