I Am What I Am What I Am

“We see the water of a river flowing uninterruptedly and passing away, and all that floats on its surface, rubbish or beams of trees, all pass by. Christian! So does our life. . .I was an infant, and that time has gone. I was an adolescent, and that too has passed. I was a young man, and that too is far behind me. The strong and mature man that I was is no more. My hair turns white, I succumb to age, but that too passes; I approach the end and will go the way of all flesh. I was born in order to die. I die that I may live. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom!”
– St. Tikhon of Voronezh

Everywhere there are signs that my life is hurdling by. My body groans. My brain blanks on names and song lyrics. Yesterday, I ordered a cap and gown, and 2019 tassel, for my oldest daughter. My son turns 20 next month.

My kids and their friends are pulsating with energy and enthusiasm I haven’t felt in decades.  Their dreams are immense and hopes sky high. It’s thrilling to witness but at the end of the day, I gratefully settle back into my middle-aged perspective and moderate expectations. Even if I could, I would not turn back the clock.

I used to be floored so easily, by obstacles, injustices, and people behaving badly. But as the years wore on, repeated exposure to disappointment and disillusionment formed scar tissue in my soul. They tempered my outrage, and watered down my intensity.  Trying circumstances brought out the worst in me, over and over again until my brokenness became undeniable.

“Well that’s depressing,” you might be thinking, which is fair. And from an earthly perspective, I’d have to agree with you. Spiritually, however, this undoing of my pride and romantic ideals has been invaluable:

Firstly, because I honestly do not expect anymore to be fulfilled by temporal accolades or acquisitions.

Secondly, because I’m in no position to judge anyone else for anything.

Thirdly, because I finally accept that the mystery of eternity is incomprehensible to the human mind.

“When I can stand in mystery (not knowing and not needing to know and being dazzled by such freedom), when I don’t need to split, to hate, to dismiss, to compartmentalize what I cannot explain or understand, when I can radically accept that “I am what I am what I am,” then I am beginning to stand in divine freedom (Galatians 5:1). We do not know how to stand there on our own. Someone Else needs to sustain us in such a deep and spacious place. This is what the saints mean by our emptiness, our poverty and our nothingness. They are not being negative or self-effacing, but just utterly honest about their inner experience. God alone can sustain me in knowing and accepting that I am not a saint, not at all perfect, not very loving at all—and in that very recognition I can fall into the perfect love of God.

– Richard Rohr, Radical Grace

Despite my own failings, and the failings of others, I keep showing up at Church because I believe there is more to life than trying to stuff the giant hole in my heart with things, entertainment, and relationships that never satisfy me. And because I’ve only ever felt relief from despair and dejection when pursuing Christ and His peace. I was born in order to die, in order to LIVE. I cannot explain this, only embrace the mystical paradox of becoming filled (with inner stillness) by being emptied (of my egoism).

Age and experience have softened my edges and stripped me of pretenses. They have silenced my speculations, replacing fear and distrust with a loving curiosity about my neighbor who is different from me. I am thankful – thankful for the cooling of my passions, for my contentment with simplicity, and for my hunger for God’s mercy and His Heavenly Kingdom which is to come.

 

8 comments:

  1. Molly. I am so glad you are back blogging. I just wanted to say that I had an enormous push to minimalism this year including unsubscribing from pretty much all email – except this and one other AFR blog and I am so thankful to check daily email and have only a few messages including an inspiring read from you. I think you were at the ancient faith women’s retreat and i made it all the way to Pittsburgh only to be too late and too tired and too without luggage (and with my then 6 month old on my hip) to stay but I am sad to have missed you. I have enjoyed your virtual friendship and knowing there are Orthodox women in the world like you. Thank you. In Christ. Sasha

    1. Thank you, Sasha! That means a great deal to me! And I am sorry you missed The Ancient Faith Women’s Conference! I totally understand about being too late and too tired. I have been there many times myself! I actually missed last year’s conference as well! Our high school’s musical, featuring my son and daughter, and three nieces, was that exact same weekend. I am already on the schedule for next year, however, so I hope to see you there!

  2. Richard Rohr’s teaching helped me to see my way through a personal crisis and become aware of the transformation that occurred in me through that crisis. I love his order, disorder, reorder teaching – that one was quite literally life-changing for me. I relate with this post in many ways and feel grateful to have read it!

    1. Jennifer, I totally agree. His order, disorder, and reorder teaching is so profound. Rohr has helped me, as well, through some very challenging transitions in this second half of my life. I am thankful you could relate to this reflection. Peace and love to you!

  3. Thank you so very much for this! I’ve shared the link to this blog post on facebook, so let me know if you don’t want that to happen.

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