As the Chaplain for Timberline Knolls, I have the unique opportunity of meeting people from a variety of circumstances and accompanying them on their spiritual journey. These journeys traverse the paths of spiritual highs and lows.
In the heights of spiritual connectedness residents feel empowered, joyous, hopeful and happy. In the lows of spiritual connectedness residents feel powerless, despairing, hopeless and isolated. Anyone who experiences a change from a spiritual high to low begins to wonder about the nature of that experience, and questions spiritual meaning and relationships.
In many cases, residents see themselves as the cause of their spiritual disconnect. They often ask, “How do I reconnect with God?” Here the emphasis is on “What do I do? How do I connect?” This question, though valid, is not the fullness of relationship.
A relationship involves two parties; a give and a take, a back and forth. In the metaphysical sense; the self and God. So the questions that must follow are, “Who am I?” “Who is God?” “To whom am I seeking to connect?” These questions invite relationship. They take time to answer. They are not easy questions to answer. As a society we are not good at slowing down and reflecting. Pressure is on us to perform, to be productive, to fill time and space. It is a radical decision to slow down. If we slow down enough, we discover our capacity to invite relationship. We can even invite relationship with our higher power.
Imagine your life as a dinner party. You put time and effort into preparing the table, making sure that all the details of the party are correct. You fill the guest list with your most beloved friends and family. You feel anticipation as the event approaches. When the party comes, are you able to enjoy it? Or has all your work led you to exhaustion? Have you left space for spontaneity, for conversation, for delight, and the unexpected? Have you left space for God?
Hospitality is a spiritual gift. The practice of hospitality is rooted in gentleness. Gentleness is about making space, taking time, being open and welcoming. Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that we must do in order to be in God’s presence.
If we do enough, if we believe enough, if we perform the right acts at the right time, God will make everything all right. But, what if it is not about doing, but being. Our identity and unique purpose is enough. Gentleness reminds us of who we are; people, beings meant to be present and aware.
If we cultivate a sense of gentleness in our lives we invite others into our hearts. If we slow down enough, we give God space, a chance, to respond. I end most conversations with residents by reminding them to be gentle with themselves. For by being gentle with ourselves, we care for ourselves and can extend that gentleness to others. Slow down. Be gentle with yourselves.