That word strikes a chord for me lately too though and not in a theological way. It reminds me a lot of the questions I have been asking myself as I grow older.
Who am I?
What am I about?
What do I personify by being Dean?
I have often ignored those questions, not out of some intentional ignorance but out of the simple fact that 21st century life gets busy. Really busy. Between work and marriage and dog and extracurricular and community stuff and being a priest, I mean really, do I have time to ask self-reflecting questions? It’s almost as if I Ron Burgundy myself and shout (or Tweet) “hey everyone, come see how busy I look!”
A few years back I tried to start a project because, well, I thought I was supposed to. Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that if I was going to be a minister, I had to do certain projects and initiatives. It took a few years of a failed entrepreneurial spirit to realize that I, Dean, was not the right one to lead a project like that. But that didn’t make me any less of Dean. My identity wasn’t tied up in the success or failure of that project.
You’d think I would learn from that, but nope. Last year we talked about moving away. The list of reasons was long, pragmatic and intellectually sound. But it hurt my heart. I knew in my deepest being that moving away, leaving the lives we love and invest in here, was going to tear me apart. Giles had to ask me the reflection questions that I wouldn’t ask myself. Who are you? What are you about? And the coup de grâce. Why leave that which fulfills you now?
We didn’t leave. I am fulfilled. Life is good.
Recently I was moving at a hurried pace when an old story* put the brakes on me again. The prophet is in the wilderness fleeing for his life, hiding in a cave from a ruthless king and queen. A voice comes to him and tells him to go out and stand on the mountain while God passes by and he obeys. The story tells us that the LORD passed by but not as we would expect. Not in the wind, not in the earthquake, not in the fire. The language of the story says that it was “a sound, a thin silence.” A low whisper. Barely audible.
Sometimes it takes an unexpected messenger to remind us to stop. Listen. Reflect. Refocus.
I am looking out that window again, hurriedly trying to rush through my morning routine. I was just about to get up from the chair when a cardinal alights itself on the chain link fence. I have lived in this house for nearly five years and don’t remember ever seeing a cardinal here.
I take it as a message, barely audible, so subtle that I almost missed it. So I fix another cup of coffee and sit back down and think. Maybe I will be incarnate here, in this moment, for a while longer. Maybe I am not quite so busy after all.
*That old story is found in 1 Kings 19 of the Hebrew Scriptures for those interested.