My Dear One,
What was the first thought on your mind when you woke this morning? Did you take time to give God thanks for the gift of a new day?
Each day we awaken to new possibilities, a new beginning, a new story we begin writing with the hours before us. Dawn is a sign of God’s everlasting re-creation of our world, “Let there be Light!” And there is light. And it is good. As the sky warms into purples and blues, then crimsons and golds, the sun racing towards your own horizon, rejoice that it is racing towards you - to give you it’s warmth and miraculous light, to call to you to rise from your slumber and meet it’s kiss upon your skin. Having accompanied you in the form of moonlight through the darker night, it now stands ready to give you the fullness of its brilliance and glory.
It invites you to rise and to begin again.
I was honored to be the invited speaker yesterday at a women’s retreat that centered on Hildegard of Bingen. They’d given me the topic I was to address: “Midlife Awakening.” I broke it down into two talks: “Finding our Voice” and “What then Shall We Say?”
Hildegard was a 12th century mystic who’d had visions since the age of three. But it wasn’t until the age of 42 that she began to share those with anyone but her very close circle. It took a loss in her life (the death of Jutta her religious superior) and a strong movement of the Spirit (an unwelcome one at that which left her physically ill) to begin to give public voice to her inner world. But once she began to speak, she spoke with a boldness and fluency that is truly remarkable given all which sought to keep her quiet.
It is important that at some point in our life, earlier for some, later for others, but usually around its midpoint, that we begin to find and give permission to the inner voice of God working through us to bring light into the world. It is important the we awaken to ourselves.
The process of the formation of a personal identity is complicated. From the first time we tell our parents “no” we are in the process of establishing an independent identity, a voice that belongs uniquely and solely to us. Look at any toddler throwing a temper tantrum on the floor of the grocery store and it would appear that the process is well on its way! However, it has only just begun. And it is a process that will come and go throughout our lives in successive waves of progression and regression. At times we will feel securely independent, at others we will feel wholly dependent. At times the strength of our identity will be an inspiration to others and at times, even deep into our lives, we will open our mouths and still hear the voice of our parents coming out of them.
What does it mean then to “find our voice?” Do we have a voice that is our own or are we each an amalgamation of the voices of others around us, those we allow power in our lives, the tragedies and triumphs and countless days of boredom that shape the contours of the landscape of our living?
And, what’s more, is “finding our voice” actually spiritual work or is it simply an extension of our ego desires to stand apart from or above others? Does God desire for us to find our own voice? Or are we called to take on the voice of another, the voice of Christ, the voice of the forgotten, the poor, the oppressed?
When we open our mouths - who and what should come out from them? These are the questions we posed to ourselves yesterday and I’d like to pose them now to you. What do you think? What has been your experience? What have you observed in those who have inspired you to find your voice?
Midlife Awakening is a crucial event in our development as human beings - for far too many people choose to remain asleep. A quintessential scripture comes from the third chapter of John’s gospel:
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above [or anew].” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind [or spirit] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The voices in our lives that give rise to our voice are many: our parents, our grandparents, other family, teachers, preachers, mentors, older siblings, friends, spouses, co-workers, our own children, the list goes on. I am shaped by all that has come before this day and all whose lives I have been privileged to be a part of in any way. And yet, my own voice at times comes from something beyond even this. Before I stand to preach or teach I pray for God’s Spirit to blow and speak in and through me. And often I find words in my mouth I hadn’t expected to be there, words that become gift for others. Words God wants them to hear. They tell me so.
And so finding my own voice is both a process of becoming and un-becoming, of leaning into the gift God has given as me and the other gift God is giving through me. It is all gift. And I would do well to remember to pray for the Spirit at times other than when I rise to preach or teach. We all would do well to pray this at the beginning of each new day: “Lord, thank you for the blessings of this day. By your Holy Spirit, empower me to be a blessing to all I will see and all who will see me.”
What new thing might God be doing in and through you today? What inner voice is God inviting to find expression? What obstacles placed by others, or more crucially placed by yourself, will you need to overcome to find the courage to open your eyes and, like Hildegard, dare to open your mouth? Where will you find the courage to be you and be fully alive?
The world needs your voice, beloved. We need to hear what you have to say. Go forth and proclaim it boldly, even if it is only a whisper. Whisper to someone the words each soul needs to hear, “I see you. I treasure you. You are not alone. You are loved.”
When we give voice to this message in our lives, we are most certainly speaking with our own unique voice, and also with the very voice of God - the one who sees, who treasures, who accompanies, and who loves each and every one of us.
Good morning! This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Let us walk into the glory of its new light …
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This Week's Soul Practice
Pray the prayer in today’s WayPost when you wake up each day. Use this time to center yourself in loving God with all you are: Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength.
“Lord, thank you for the blessings of this day. By your Holy Spirit, empower me to be a blessing to all I will see and all who will see me.”
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