We can’t really know what God is up to.
But we can wonder, and we do. Wondering about what God is doing makes me feel like I am the size of an ant in an expansive universe. Actually, I am, in a way.
Somehow, though, I am part of it all.
Paradigms of planet, church, religion and humanity are shifting all around us. Sometimes, these shifts are gradual and gentle, like water flowing silently downstream. Other times, though, the societal changes are so shocking we almost feel damaged. We collapse on crosswalks and sprint down the streets of tomorrow while the statues of our ancestors laugh at our blindness. Can we see the beauty that surrounds us today?
As we listen to the news and hold it up to what we’re working for, we can become discouraged and worried. What’s happening to our democracy? What’s going on in Christianity? Passions and power quake the church and government and we wonder what to have faith in.
Since I am a young woman religious I keep finding myself on the edge of great movements. Feeling the movements on the edges help me gain confidence in the goodness of God’s guidance.
Over a week ago I was a participant in a wonderfully strange conference. Giving Voice, a national organization for young women religious, sponsored an inter-generational conference in Chicago to discuss what is happening in this life of ours, religious life. We came with a sense that God is up to something new and different. Together we wondered what that was. The wondering was strange because we were talking about something that we didn’t know.
In Madeleine L’Engle‘s book A Wrinkle in Time, Mrs. Whatsit sighs and tries to answer the questions of children. “Explanations are not easy when they are about things for which your civilization still has no words.” I desire to explain what I’ve experienced and sensed, but what is emerging seems to be beyond anything we have ever known.
I know it though, God is up to something. Paradigms are shifting; the world is changing right under our feet. When the earth moves, it can feel dangerous. We don’t know what will break around us. We grip to reactions based in fear and power and doubt survival. We crash and forget what we most need to move on: each other. As tumultuous as all the crashing and changing may feel, we can trust God and have hope. God is in control and shifts can be good.
At the “young nun” conference we sought to contemplate the goodness that vibrates through the groans. The process was deep and profound. We listened, prayed, shared, played, questioned, connected and organized. We learned too. We were blessed to be with Sandra Schneiders, who is a great historian and theologian. She’s pretty much the expert on religious life and what is has been, is, and could be. In other words, Schneiders is a woman who can speak quite well about how God has worked with people throughout time.
We pondered what it means to be religious women in this time of unknowing. We leaned in, all 150 women religious seemingly stuck in 2011. We felt connected to the deep roots of our ancient tradition and movements toward the future. In these moments, I pondered how our human minds limit understanding what time really is. Science agrees with what my spirit senses, too. Time, as we know it, is an illusion.
So, we’re a part of this illusive time and God needs us to work. Schneiders’ analysis of this Kairos was based in her insights that the signs of these times are globalization, secularization, pluralization, and de-traditionalization. We are called to respond to what’s going on and how it impacts spirituality, politics, service and poverty. We really need to be involved.
I keep wondering. How are we supposed to respond to God’s call? If the needs of this time are so great- and they are- then how are we supposed to be present to the suffering and bring life to the future? What actions do we need to take to birth a new paradigm and way of being?
As we ponder the power of Now, we get to listen to the whispers of the Spirit who always compels us to grow and change. At the end of the conference, consciousness brought forth the art of poetry. In peace, we walked through the shift and blessed the words of wonder. There was silence as we gazed at what the time had emerged.
In art there are answers. We need not worry about how to bring forth a new paradigm, after all. We can just focus on living the reign of God. After we do this for some time, then we’ll be able to look around and be awed that God has used us to help create something new. Thanks be to God!
Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.
Sister Julia also blogs at http://messyjesusbusiness.wordpress.com/.
A version of this post was previously posted on the Messy Jesus Business blog.