As part of my morning practice, I was reading an entry from a book called Postcards from the Valley. The author, David Giuliano, offers the collection of reflections as a gift of encouragement for when we feel overwhelmed. It’s even more profound for me as I read it from a place of feeling well and solid.
He writes about having “dreamed of leading our church for a time from a place of strength….Instead I have been offering my weakness to the church….I would not have chosen it but I cannot deny that it has been a gift to me and others….There is fear and there is faith in the valley and surprising encounters with the Holy One.”
I’ve had those experiences too, of being unexpectedly “accompanied in the valley”. When I felt overwhelmed and someone called with a message of encouragement. Or leaving a meeting feeling ineffective, and lifting my eyes to find an amazing Aurora Borealis before me. In those moments, I am reminded of my insignificance in the Universe (in a good way) and my ego-talk is humbled out of me.
But when I have this kind of experience when I am in “good space”, I am, unexpectedly, taken aback. This entry — in which he shares what it felt like to be far from home, reflecting on being intentional about nurturing particular relationships, how sometimes he feels like he is living “a long way from the centre of who I was created to be” — pulled me up short. Feeling quite capable, confident, carrying on business-as-usual, I was called out to remember: who has helped me get to this place? I had to call to mind, and heart, the relationships in my life, who has helped me to know what my centre is. And, more pointedly, how do I nurture these relationships so they continue to grow? With what do I feed them? Do I offer real nourishment, or superficial junk food, or left-overs past their best before?
As David reminded me, rather than praise myself in moments of strength, perhaps it is in these “good space” times when I carry on as if I’m invincible, that I need to keep myself in perspective and remember who has helped me get here. While allowing myself pride in what I do well, maybe I need to roll my eyes at my ego-thinking I was just “born this way”. The gift is in recalling that I have been nurtured and nourished along the way by many very patient people. My spiritual journey is made deeper when I am called to be humble, because that is when I sense my connectedness most fully.
So from “good space”, I call to mind what relationships are important to me, who has supported me on my journey, and who still is. I am grateful to David who reminded that relationships don’t grow on trees; they take effort and time to be nurtured to be healthy.
I give thanks for the relationships that help me (and have helped in the past)be my best self, who confront, challenge and support me, and commit to nourishing them with my best self. My heart is filled with gratitude.
*Postcards from the Valley, by David Giuliano, Toronto: UCPH, 2008. Available as an e-book from ucrdstore.ca