While walking on the beach last weekend, the chaos of the surroundings caught my attention. The lines in the sand made shapes of all angles. The boulders looked jagged and precariously steep. The wind blew and waves crashed; calm one moment, harsh the next. Despite the unpredictability of the Coast, I felt at home. I felt deeply comforted in the midst of this breath-taking, beautiful chaos.
The reason I felt so at peace, despite these chaotic observations, is because I also know there is an overarching and grounding order. Not only at the Coast, but in all of Creation. Connected to the phases of the moon, the tide rhythmically comes in and out. Running alongside the ocean, the beach is a delicate yet resilient ecosystem-home to crabs, clams, grasses and tiny invertebrates. The birds above fly in a “V” formation. It is stunning. Beyond comprehension.
The God that created these wonders and rhythms also created me. This sense of intimate connectivity surfaces within me most frequently when I am in awe of Creation. Perhaps I was resonating so deeply with these paradoxically chaotic, and ordered observations on this walk because I feel like my life right now is a manifestation of this same paradox.
Over a year ago, I embarked on a journey with Word Made Flesh with the intention of starting a community in Oregon. It has been a year full of hope, deep questioning, challenge, laughter and some tears. After much soul-searching, I recently came to the conclusion that I am not going to pursue Word Made Flesh Oregon as my next step. This decision feels raw and shameful at times. It also feels freeing and sincere. Some days it feels pretty chaotic. The fact that I am not following through with something I said I would has felt burdensome. I fear it is a reflection of my integrity — or lack thereof. The list goes on.
Yet, my family and friends have shown me what feels like an extension of God’s grace when I have otherwise been unable to sense it myself. They have spoken words of truth and offered reassurance. I have come to accept the reality that things change and that is ok. God is in the midst. God is still moving and breathing. God’s Love is big enough to hold what feels like my broken offerings. God is weaving even this into a tapestry that is much bigger and more beautiful than anything I can imagine.
As part of my journey with WMF, I have been living and working at a L’Arche home in Portland. It is an enormous gift. While manifesting in different ways, the missions at the core of L’Arche and WMF are the same: walking alongside people who are marginalized, relationships of mutuality, and exploring community in the name of Christ. The rhythms of daily life at L’Arche are intimate indeed. This kind of shared living involves starting the day alongside another, sharing meals, prayer, music, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and mourning pain and loss. One of the greatest gifts and greatest challenges of life at L’Arche is how blurred the lines are between personal time, space and rest, and community time, space and work.
This level of intimacy has challenged my desire to do incarnational ministry (when it comes down to it, it is really hard!), but has also deepened my belief in the world’s need for it.
In the midst of my discernment earlier this year around WMF Oregon, I was asked to go on a trip to Bolivia as an interpreter for a medical team, which I happily agreed to. On this trip, I visited the WMF-Bolivia community in El Alto. Through this experience and prayer, I have since decided to go back to Bolivia, after my commitment with L’Arche ends, to do a short-term internship with WMF-Bolivia. This is hugely exciting to me and was an opportunity that completely took me by surprise. As much as I would like to say that discerning God’s will is easy, the more I grow, the more I realize how far from the truth that is. God’s will is oftentimes messy and unpredictable; I started out with WMF thinking of starting a new field in Oregon, after following a very zigzagging path, I have come to a place where my next step is going to Bolivia as an intern.
God created the sand, rocks and ocean just as much as God created the force of the tide and the phases of the moon. God created my journey with WMF just as much as God is continually creating me more into the person God intends for me to be. As the poet, Rilke, puts it,
“God speaks to each of us as God makes us.
Then walks with us silently out of the night…
Flare up like flame
And make shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you:
Beauty and terror
Just keep going. No feeling
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.”
God created me. God is continually creating me. In the midst of the pain during this journey with WMF, I also find much beauty and depth in it. I have interacted with God, with others, and with myself intimately in ways that are new and stretching. Perhaps such intimate interaction is more the point that God seeks from us and hopes for us than what the world deems a “successful” journey.
CONNECT WITH HANNAH: