Love in Action: A Prayer for Young Adults
Article by Aria M. Kirkland-Harris (featured in May 2016 eNews)
As I prepared for Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative (YALLI) closing day program last spring, I pulled out my original application materials to see what had opened up over the two-year program. I think I was expecting to find some profound revelation to deep, unanswered questions, but instead, I was tickled to find that the questions and desires that I had then are the same ones that I have now.
Before starting YALLI, I’d had some life-altering, soul stirring encounters with the Divine. I wanted to stay in those high spiritual mountain top spaces, but at the same time, I wanted to be more attuned to the Spirit’s more subtle, everyday movements. There were times when I felt as though I were walking in the dark, not at all lost, but not able to see the future clearly. I trusted God enough to keep walking towards the unknown, but I was longing to hear that “still small voice.”
Even my favorite readings have not changed over time. In my application I included an excerpt from J. Wilmer Gresham’s The Wings of Healing:
“Prayer is being with God You can’t choose at all about it, except just in choosing to be with Him.
“Perhaps He will take you into the night with Him or into the mist where you will not be able to see Him.
“Perhaps you will be with Him in pain, or in exaltation, or in happiness, or in tiredness.
“He just says: “Come to Me,” and you say: “I will,” or “I will not.”
“You make no stipulations, that is not your part; you know that He wants you, and you know what kind of wanting that is.
“You know that if you say you will not come, He does not leave off wanting you, so you imagine what that means.
“You know that if you come to Him, He will ask you to help Him about the Kingdom, that He will in the end give you that work for it that no one else can do.
“You know that He will bring you into the Fellowship of His friends, and that you will be allowed to bring Him into the Fellowship of your friends…”
That was the gift of YALLI. It was God’s invitation into a Fellowship of other young adults who were answering God’s call to “Come,” and seeking to explore and understand who we are in the great work of the Kingdom.
Many of us came to the program with deep questions like: “How can we honor, nurture, and share our authentic spiritual selves with others? What does it mean to be searching for sincere love and joy in our daily lives, including work? And once we find it, how can we cling to what is good and release the things that are not life giving?”
During our residencies, we eased into the silence and courageously explored the depths of our desires in God so we could return to the world with renewed hope and strength. Together, we searched for God in the midst of wonderings, uncertainty, and even tiredness. We learned that living authentically with compassion, strength and vision means that we must not be afraid to share who we are in God. We held space for one another in the silence and delighted in the light and warmth of God’s presence among us.
I learned that letting leadership “flow from within” means letting go of expectations and my own sense of time. I learned to notice my intentions for each moment, meeting, or project, and how to return to those desires when I get impatient, frustrated, or distressed. Most importantly, I learned to give of myself from places of love and fullness, always remembering that burnout is not God’s desire for us, but God will certainly restore us.
Our assignment to be loving, joyful, patient, faithful and prayerful requires diligence and commitment. But in accepting God’s invitation into a Fellowship with God’s beloved, we receive the gift of being in community with people who honor the holiness in one another. Having that support system was and continues to be an invaluable gift, and I now find joy in the consistency of the unknown. I understand that the purpose of prayer is not to find answers—although things are revealed—but it’s simply being with God and delighting in God’s presence.
Shalem’s Young Adult Life and Leadership Initiative (YALLI) is for young adults (approximately ages 25-40) who seek a deeper spiritual foundation for their lives and work and who welcome the support of a like-minded community. This program is grounded in the Christian contemplative tradition yet it draws on the wisdom of many religious traditions to offer support for everyday living. In the midst of the challenges of the 21st century, this program provides concrete help in the struggle to live authentically with compassion, strength and vision.