Go lightfooted into the here and now

Our lives are marked with this tension between beginnings and endings, between new life and the richness of life well lived now reaching its conclusion. Life is a cycle of moving through various stages. The first part of our journey through life is marked by accumulation.  In the latter stage of our lives, we must begin to divest ourselves of that which we have accumulated and begin to evaluate whether or not we accomplished what we set out to do in life.

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Over the past while I’ve become aware of events happening in my life that seem to be a contradiction to each other.  This past year we have celebrated the birth of two new grandchildren.  Around the time of the arrival of our second grandchild, a dear friend of ours and a Bishop in the Anglican Church, Gary Woolsey, died of a cancerous brain tumour.  This juxtaposition of events caused me to do some further reflection upon this period in our year when we celebrate the birth of Christ, representing new possibilities, at the ending of our year.

The arrival of the Christ Child occurs at a time in history in which the people of God had longed for a Messiah to save them from powerlessness and despair.  Instead of a triumphant King, the gift provided to the people was a tiny infant, born in a feeding trough in the most humble of surroundings.  It was not what was expected, but it was a gift that still brings life and light, hope and peace.  While the people of that era may not have understood the perfect nature of this gift, we can look back in wonder and awe at the wisdom of a God who gives every good and perfect gift.

It is easy to understand the gift of new life in the form of a baby and to find stirring up within ourselves feelings of gratitude and joy at this new beginning that draws us into a space of wonder.  Facing the end of life seems to bring a sense of dark finality.  Yet preparing for this time of our lives can provide us with a different kind of gift – the gift of inner wisdom and spiritual insight.

It is easy to understand the gift of new life in the form of a baby and to find stirring up within ourselves feelings of gratitude and joy at this new beginning that draws us into a space of wonder.  Facing the end of life seems to bring a sense of dark finality.  Yet preparing for this time of our lives can provide us with a different kind of gift – the gift of inner wisdom and spiritual insight.

Our lives are marked with this tension between beginnings and endings, between new life and the richness of life well lived now reaching its conclusion. Life is a cycle of moving through various stages.  In the next few months, I will be marking various milestones with the grandchildren – the first night slept through, learning to sit independently, the first tooth, the first bite of “solid” food.  The first part of our journey through life is marked by accumulation – of experiences, of education, and of all the things and stuff that mark this progression through our lives.  In the latter stage of our lives, we must begin to divest ourselves of that which we have accumulated and begin to evaluate whether or not we accomplished what we set out to do in life.

Every spiritual tradition has at its core some experience of renunciation, perhaps a period of major divestment, of that which shaped a person before he or she began a spiritual quest.  In her book, The Gift of Years, Joan Chittester points out that during this period, the seeker considers the meaning of life and death, of the spiritual and material, of Earth and its beyond, of the soul in contact with the great soul within.  It’s a period of evaluating everything we have come to know about life and looking for a dimension above the things of this world, for the sake of what is yet to come.  Chittister describes this as stripping ourselves of whatever it is we have accrued until this time in order to give ourselves wholly to the birthing of the person within.

During this period at the end of our calendar year, the beginning of a new church year, we find ourselves placed within this great tension between receiving the gift of the Christ Child in the midst of facing the darkest time of the year.  In the midst of our busy celebrations of Christmas, we can choose to spend some quiet time to give time and space to this birthing of the person within.  We can set out to find out for ourselves who we really are, what we know, what we care about and how to be simply enough for ourselves in the world.  We can discover how the things we have amassed for ourselves over a lifetime have not defined us and begin to value more deeply the treasure within ourselves.

Chittester reminds us that the burden of our years of life is the temptation to cling to the times and things behind us rather than move to the liberating moments ahead.

Chittester reminds us that the burden of our years of life is the temptation to cling to the times and things behind us rather than move to the liberating moments ahead.  The blessing of our years is the invitation to go lightfooted into the here and now – because we spend far too much of life preparing for the future rather than enjoying the present.

During this busy time of year, take some time to reflect on your own desire to cling to what is familiar and be prepared to divest yourself of that which weighs you down.  Prepare yourself to move into the New Year carrying the blessing of the possibility of birthing some new aspect of your soul.  May God bless all the beginnings and endings of your daily life.