Spiritual Direction in the Franciscan Tradition - Sister Judy Nielsen. OSF
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Knowing Your Story

Hello Again!
First let me apologize for the issues with the blog.  I am told that some people who follow it are receiving the same thing over and over.  They tell me that the issue developed during the Covid crisis and they are working on it.  The newer blogs and some comments have disappeared into the fog.  I miss the comments the most.  You always have such good thoughts.  Thank you to the person who notified me.  Please know you are always welcome to browse through past posts. 

I have been answering the same question lately.  It sounds a lot like this:  I want to support the issues of people who have different life stories than me but I don't know how without neglecting what I''m supposed to be doing.  What do I do?  If you are someone who has recently talked with me you will recognize some of this blog.

This is a lifelong kind of question.  When we find the answer once then we find we grow some more only to see the question come up in a different way.  So let's talk about supporting things like justice and human rights and communities as they grow.  Let's talk about how the same issues can appear like a fun house mirror to those with different life stories.  To some it will be long and stretched out, to others it will be a short term project and to some it will become a story they have lived.  The real question may be how do we contribute to the good of those who have lived a different life story than our own.  Do we protest?  Do we donate?  Do we study it?  Do we try to experience it like the missionary traveling to countries whose cultures they can only visit to deliver good will?  Perhaps none of these.  

We all have a story.  It's what makes us who we are and unfolds across the years to add to who we become.   Like the pages in a book we write our stories with our experiences and decisions.  Some of those decisions turn into mistakes that God converts into miracles others are learning experiences. Lately there's been a lot to experience.  First, lets have confidence in our ability to ask ourselves what is our purpose?  How will my life story help bring about a solution?

Mother Teresa once wrote of the many invitations she received to travel throughout the world to join people in their protests against the wrongs in the world.  She wrote that she answered every invitation by telling them if they ever marched for peace she would join them.  She later wrote she never received that invitation.  Her point was that it is easy to point to the wrongs of others but other people only hear the noise.  

Peace is hard work. Solutions are hard work.  Peace is the hard work of coming to the table with those with whom we disagree to craft a solution together. To do that we must know our purpose.  Our purpose is is always that which God has specially equipped us to do.  It is our job to be doing what God called us to do.  To offer our hands and talent to him if he can use them in the situation to find a solution.  We may be sure he will let us know if he needs us. 

This brings me to the story of two friends very different from me.  Two very accomplished professionals. Yet, they could tell me the story of housing, job, health care, law enforcement and other discrimination.  I can not tell that story.  I can tell the story of a long business career that turned into a religious vocation that resulted in one community believing I needed mental health care and having to overcome the judgments of the other.  One day my friends asked if I wanted to support a large event they attended every year.  I told them I was happy to do that but could not come to the event.   I will always remember the reply: "of course not, it's not your story to tell."   Over the years we found ways of supporting each other. Our friendship demonstrated that we saw no differences in our humanness.  That same friendship built bridges from one community to another creating peace and understanding across the divide in our life stories.  Those bridges were built on the acceptance that we are each different in the way we live out our life story.  Friendship provides the building blocks that help avoid the temptation of bitterness, anger and blaming.   Friendships aren't movements.  They are one person reaching out to another accepting each is different.  Bringing building blocks when a new bridge to a solution is being built.  I could add my financial education to fair housing.  I could invite them to share the fun things in my life and share some of theirs.  As our circle widen so did the solutions.  We have known each other now for many years.  The lessons learned and shared far surpassed our professional credentials or the differences in our life stories. 

Should is a word we generally point at others.  When we point it at ourselves we do so as an obligation and we get into other life stories to relieve our guilt.  We often fail to realize that it is not our differences that need turned into sameness.  It is our combined differences turned into solutions that God would have us look for to build our bridges.


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