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The Intimacy of Transition

Article by Ann Dean (September 2018 eNews)

September rains bring cool crisp air, soften the fragrance of the last white rose at the garden gate and splatter the pathways with acorns and the first shiny gold leaves from the tulip poplar overhead. Old pines whisper wisdom in the quiet of the morning breeze. Multitudes of wings flutter and glow in the afternoon light, pausing on their way south, and at eventide the chirping crickets increase their choral practice.

Yet this September I pause and realize it isn’t change I am most aware of, but freshness. It is a freshness of the moment that brings invigorating pleasure. It is refreshing. Momentous, even. An old rhythm of Earth is in dramatic motion and delights the senses. The seasons are changing. But change isn’t really what I’m sensing. I remember expecting and noticing all kinds of changes in past Septembers. Where did that sense of change go?

This question quietly sits in my heart for a few days. There is a hush of holiness around the question. And now, coming out of silence, I recognize change has become a friend to hold, a reality of life that I have come to accept, even cherish. For some time now, it has become natural to embrace change as a constant, to be present to change as a quality of being rather than an opportunity to compare before and after.

O beloved Unchanging One, how can this be of value to you?

Transition is the word more commonly used for the spiritual journey. Years ago, when I was listening for a new call, uncomfortable and impatient, no one else seemed concerned. “Oh, you’re in transition,” they would say. Now it seems that everything is in transition all the time. Earth’s climate, politics, church, health, technology… the list goes on and on. But my impatience has dissipated. Now I most want to trust in the mystery, in the darkness of unknowing. Deep down I sense the value of living into mystery as the most important thing I can do, trusting the fecundity of darkness.

I recognize a steady intensity of immediacy in my soul’s engagement. In the deep rest of apophatic prayer, in attention to headlines and work activities, in all things there is an underlying urgency that is a particular energy of transition. In some gifted way my deepest being has consented to the reality of change, longing to be present with a willingness to become different. As I pray for this willingness to deepen, there is a growing sense of divine love, a lavish love. It is an extravagant intensity of joy.

Might this not be the most crucial work of our time—to expand human consciousness and imagination, to become greater capacities for divine action? I have prayed for ever deeper willingness to change, to accept change, to become a change agent. Though in all honesty change will probably be so slow that my own little life will not witness much more than possibility.

It seems rather odd that change could become a flow of life, a place of belonging. Though I notice and care about specific changes, the Beloved has conditioned my heart to desire intimacy with whatever-is, more than any transition movement. So the acorns fall and the monarch butterflies head for Mexico again. In past Septembers, I thought ahead to sprouting trees and returning wings. This September, I revel in the transparency of nature intensifying rest and the wildness of expanding imagination.

I tremble in joy that the wild world is renewing my spirit with freshness and deep shadows of mystery. Somehow, in the trembling, there is an awakening to hope that quiets surface fears and gives strength for engaging the struggles of our broken world.

Presence is all activity, going I know not where, surprisingly comforting in its mystery, in the emptiness which is the beautiful color of silence. And beneath it all, in the dark womb of unknowing, there is strength and hope for joining the eternal dimension of transition, that life in its fullness is love in transition and anything else is dead.

This article first appeared in Shalem’s FY2011-12 Annual Report.

 

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