About 6 weeks ago, I began a pretty cool adventure. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, wrote something called “The Spiritual Exercises”. Tim Perrine describes it this way: “Derived mostly from St. Ignatius’ conversion experiences in 1521-3, Spiritual Exercises has provided guidance and encouragement to its readers for several hundred years. The aim of Spiritual Exercises is to assist people in finding God’s will for their life, and to give them the motivation and courage to follow that will”.
Usually, you make a 30-day silent retreat to do the Spiritual Exercises. Some day, maybe a lot sooner than later, I will do that. It felt like the 8 days I spent at Eastern Point in Gloucester in January went by in an eye blink and I was just getting into the groove of things when it was time to come home. Restless and a little confused, I was hugely fortunate to be able to talk about my experience with MRC, a blog friend I have come to know and deeply respect over these past years. MRC is a Presbyterian minister who has training as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition. As we talked by phone and blog and email, the possibility emerged that she would become my spiritual director and walk with me as I do what’s called the “Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life”. Pretty self-explanatory—you stay where you are and bit by bit, work your way through it. I get a set of assignments for a 2-week period, assignments that give me time for reflection, writing, prayer and silence. MRC and I use video conferencing technology and we visit every 2 weeks.
One of the overarching question for the past couple of weeks was, “In what ways has God carried you through life”? Sometimes I get exasperated at how platitudinous my responses sound. By now, though, I find it’s a whole lot easier to be who I am and tell it like it is, rather than contort and strain to impress my own self with the depth of my insight and the brilliance of my intellect. You just sort-of march on in all the commonplace-ness of your own, ordinary life. And then, there are these brief, resplendent moments filled with joyful revelation.
Those of you who read my blog with any regularity know how central walking has become to the hope and promise of my life in the midst of great loss and dislocation. I have now lost over 40 pounds which allows me to do things I couldn’t have dreamed of doing ever before. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa: that has unleashed the shoe goddess within. I am having the time of my life buying shoes. The picture shows my most recent acquisitions and there’s even another pair on the way, a really cute pair of espadrilles I may get to wear this Sunday. They let me be taller or shorter at will. As you can see, one pair is really sturdy and practical for my daily walks. Last Friday night we had a Salsa party at church and I could hardly believe how my life has turned out that it even includes me being able to wear red heels and go dancing, even if it is just dancing with the delicious kids from El Centro. I am not the only clergy person of the female persuasion who sneaks shoes in to subvert the staid (boring?) clerical appearance on Sunday mornings. But I bet I’m enjoying it more than most.
When MRC and I talked last time, it suddenly occurred to me that there’s a very simple answer to the question, “in what ways has God carried you?”. God’s carrying me in the shoes. The playful, silly, I hope somewhat sexy, smart and sassy shoes. Thanks be to God!