09 December 2016

Advent Reflection: Trusting the Process

Over the past six months a phrase which was invitation, challenge, conundrum (unfortunately, it was all-too-frequently that), solace, and promise was something I heard often, namely, "Trust the Process".  Over time I wrote a lot (of course), began to draw some (an old joy I had long ago left behind), and watched as numerous meetings with my director (who lives her integrity in Christ by "trusting the process") produced piece after piece of a tapestry of healing and growth whose overall  design I could never have imagined. In the picture above I see a child completely committed to and absorbed in her work. Like any born-contemplative she focuses on a small area of a very much larger picture, colors it in a way which allows what she is working on to blend with the next section over. She invests each moment with as much attention, love, and creativity as she can. She makes each piece of each drawing an instance of intense care and beauty. Bit by bit she discovers that she is creating an entire universe in this way, a universe marked by a massive rainbow of refracted light --- symbol of her covenant existence with a God she knows intimately but whose face she has not seen and whose name she has not yet learned.

At some point perhaps, after she has drawn and drawn, colored and colored some more, imagined, thought about, and poured herself into these pictures moment by moment day in and day out, she may assemble the pieces and be awed by what she and God together have brought to be. This is the nature of "trusting the process". It is also the nature of contemplative living and contemplative prayer. It is a matter of saying yes to the moment and the piece of work or life which stands right in front of us, even when we do not see a larger picture emerging or even imagine its possibility. It is a matter of saying yes to the one accompanying each and both of us and the God who dwells within us both -- seeking fullness of life for us and to be fully revealed (him)self. It reminds me of the sacred space and time Advent provides for allowing the work of bringing God-in-us to birth; so too, it gives me a glimpse of what Advent both gives to and asks of us.

Without any clear sense of what would come Mary said yes to being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. I have no doubt she was awed, hopeful, and excited but also, that she was terrified by the potential consequences of that yes and troubled by an inability to see what it would entail. When she pondered things in her heart I can see her considering the emerging picture piece by tiny piece, focusing her heart there and adding whatever yesses needed to be for the larger reality to gradually emerge and be realized in space and time. It is not hard for me to imagine Mary in the place of the child in the drawing above, drawing and drawing, coloring and coloring some more, pondering and pouring herself into these pictures, these moments of life and prayer, "trusting the process" until one day the pieces are stitched together and she is able to behold the child, and perhaps in time, will begin to glimpse the entirely new universe she will help God bring to birth in and through this child.

So I trust the process. One day Christ will be brought to full stature --- as Ephesians puts the matter -- as I too am being brought to full stature. One day God will not only be more truly incarnate in me but ultimately will be all in all. I have no idea what that new heaven and new earth will look like; nor do I need to. For now there remain all the smaller and larger yesses that still need to be said, the small and large investments of self that can only be made moment by moment, day by day, year by year, the focused commitment to draw and pour out my life in covenant with God, stroke by graced stroke until the living light standing at the heart of my being shines forth, fully illuminated, visibly ablaze with all the colors of love -- and in my own small but hardly insignificant way, I contribute to Christ's coming to full stature. This is Advent's contemplative challenge and call.

Trusting the Process Now