In the end, I’m not sure what exactly caused it. But I spent a few days last week in pity party mode. Maybe you’re familiar with this particular brand of “woe is me” attitude. I can’t call it depression, because to do so would be to belittle the medical condition so many face. But I can say that I was solidly stuck with a bad attitude that needed self-assessment.
Last Tuesday, I had my first (virtual) appointment with a new spiritual director. It happened just a few hours after my regular Women’s faith sharing group that meets weekly to review and pray over the Sunday gospel. The coming together of those two calendar events so close to one another meant that I spent much of Tuesday morning crying. I’m not gonna lie – it happens regularly. I’m a crier. I come by it naturally. Before me, Daddy cried and he got it from his mom, my Grandma Patty, the saintliest woman I’ve ever known.
My crying is often appropriately timed (like it was Friday when I watched Hamilton!) I’ve been known to cry while speaking if the Spirit so moves me. Crying doesn’t usually bother me, but Tuesday’s tears felt, somehow, self-indulgent.In this week's #UpdateFromTheBallChair @LisaHendey ponders the meaning of #MISSION and how it fits with this current phase of life we're in. Click To Tweet
As part of my conversation with my spiritual director, we were discussing my tendency to bounce between “work” and “ministry” when I describe what it is that I spend my days doing. To be honest, neither word perfectly fits. “Work” infers monetary compensation and a regular job. “Ministry”, in my mind, is something one needs to be qualified to pursue. My kind and intuitive director noticed my waffling and asked about it. I had to admit that I’ve long avoided both terms. In recent months, as my “professional” calendar has given way to cancelations, I’ve been even more confused about what it is I do.
Somehow, the last few days of self-doubt and sentiment have led me to a new space and a readiness to look at my life such as it is now and such as it will be in the future with a new definition:
Since 2013, when Pope Francis first gave us his document Evangelii Gaudium, I’ve been pondering his phrase “Missionary Disciple”.
Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in him “because of the woman’s testimony” (Jn 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?
If you look at the home page of my website, you’ll find the words “Missionary Disciple” there. At one point, a few years ago, I contemplated and even outlined a book on the topic. But it wasn’t until this past week that I really wrapped my mind around this current state of my life as a “mission”. For me, mission does not connote the sense that I totally have my act together and that I’m out to save the world. I don’t, and I’m not. Mission is, rather, a state of being sent to serve and to love. While the initial dictionary definitions of the word “mission” often relate to religious or political journeys, it is the secondary definition of a “vocation or calling” that seems to most closely relate to where I find myself in my life right now.
Where in the past, my mission has taken me to far-flung places, right now my mission is much closer to home. A big part of my mission at the moment involves my parents. This gives me the opportunity not only to give myself to them but also to “practice what I preach”. Over the past few months, I have looked at this time of “staying home” as an interruption to my schedule. Now, I find myself needing to recognize that THIS is my schedule and that all else needs to be worked around this priority.
I’ll be honest in sharing that this is very, very hard for me. It may sound bad to say that, but above all, I’d like to be transparent in this place. If that causes you to think less of me, please say a prayer for me as I endeavor to humbly live this part of my mission.
I’m not sure I’m adequately communicating the leap of faith I’ve been able to take in the last few days in now referring to how I spend my days as my “mission”. Is it a mission to read to my Dad over Alexa, to cook for my husband, and to continue to prayerfully discern my writing? For me, yes it is. This mission of mine might change. It probably will. But for now, this is it. And in saying that aloud, I finally find myself able to claim a bit of peace and as such to feel gratitude.
This morning, in my prayer time over today’s gospel passage, I found myself pondering the role of Jesus’ disciples. Undoubtedly, as they witnessed their teacher performing miracles and moving hearts, they must have felt a sense of purpose, of mission. But they undoubtedly also experienced the same sense of uncertainty I have these days. What will happen next? How will this all end up? Am I going to be ok?
My questions are fair and it’s ok to ask them. Claiming the mission doesn’t mean understanding or predicting where it will lead me. But I’m relieved to finally have some sense that my journey hasn’t “ended”, but rather that it continues in new, unknown ways. For today, this is enough to keep the tears at bay.
What They’re Saying
(I’m starting a little feature here to share reviews and feedback I’m receiving. I hope this will inspire you to review one of my books, invite me for a virtual visit, or simply to drop me an email if my work has blessed you in some way. I don’t offer this to be braggadocious. Your feedback fuels me and inspires me not to give up during these challenging times.)
A review for I Am God’s Storyteller:
I bought this for my mom who works with kids. It’s often difficult to find ethnically diverse religious books and especially ones that are more positive than guilt tripping, this is that book!
A question for you: What does your mission look like these days?