Teachers Along Life’s Path

Blog by Associate Mary Ellen George, OPA

Looking out over the expanse of an open, green field bordered by lines of uneven trees, I ponder about what to write for this blog. I start to jot down ideas, only to start one idea, then move on to another idea, never finishing the first thought.  I’m left with a hodgepodge of ideas that have been halted in mid-sentence and left stranded without clear endings.  I explore one idea, experiment with another approach, only to be frustrated, wondering where these ideas may lead me.  So, I stop for a moment and listen for the still, small voice within and around me for inspiration and direction, and to know what path to choose. Oftentimes, I am surprised by the path that unfolds and how the Spirit works through and in me.

Life is sometimes like that, where we start down one path, then decide to take another path or another path finds us. Or, we find that life simply sends us whirling down one path, with detours that result in going down a bumpy road with unexpected turns and curves.  Yet, we follow wherever it leads us, praying that all will be well.  Sometimes the road takes us along scenic landscapes that fill us with awe and wonder.  At other times, the road is unclear, and we find ourselves walking through prickly bushes and encountering difficult terrain. As we travel these paths, we can either get angry at the roadblocks or we can view the digression as an opportunity to be open to surprises and to new opportunities.

And sometimes we meet unexpected teachers along the road who show us the way to navigate life’s challenges and uncertainties. For me, one of these teachers is my stepdaughter who has weathered many storms in her life, starting at an early age, enduring situations and conditions foreign to me in my lifetime.  While the road for her has seldom been easy, she continues to teach me how to handle adversity by her example of courage, resiliency, and hope amid many difficult circumstances. Living alone in Colorado with no family support nearby, she has walked many miles, fighting for the right to live, to be heard, refusing to be sidelined by bureaucratic processes that test her will and place obstacles in her path for a dignified life.

A sensitive and caring woman, she survives on Medicaid and SSI, often facing discriminatory attitudes and practices because of her dependency on government aid. She is also a kidney dialysis patient, subject to three-hour treatments three times a week.  At one of the dialysis centers, besides enduring sometimes painful procedures, the staff was not always kind, gentle, or understanding with her. Faced with some of the same obstacles as her, I might be bewildered and angry with all the speed bumps along the path. Certainly, she has had moments of despair and frustration along the way, but she continues to hold onto hope and to believe that “all shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.”  (Quote is attributed to Julian of Norwich)

Her faith is remarkable when you know her full story of struggle and triumph.  Her witness of faith and fortitude teach me to hold onto the same because “no matter what we encounter in life, it is faith that enables us to try again, to trust again, to love again.  Even in times of immense suffering, it is faith that enables us to relate to the present moment in such a way that we can go on, we can move forward, instead of becoming lost in resignation or despair.” (Quote is from Sharon Salzberg’s book, Faith:  Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience.)

We need to remember that we never know what difficulties those we encounter may have lived through and are going through. Our own experiences may be similar or different, but I suspect we all have and know stories of struggle and triumph that unite us in this human journey.  We need to be open to hearing and listening to each other’s stories and be willing to receive and learn what others can teach us.

So, where are you as a traveler, as a sojourner on this journey of life?  How do you keep going when you hit a bump in the road? Who are the unexpected teachers you have met along life’s winding roads?  Who has helped you navigate through roadblocks? Who has been your Emmaus companion, lifting you up and offering you support, teaching you about hope, faith, and resiliency?  How are you being a presence of hope, faith, and love in your neck of the woods?

Maybe you hear God whispering and revealing signs to you that you are being called to travel alongside other women as a religious sister.  Maybe you hear the cry of God’s people and want to bring the message of God’s love and hope to others as a religious sister? Sometimes we don’t know where a path will take us and we may be hesitant to take the first step.  Faith, however, teaches us to trust in the goodness of our God and that God has our back.  Take the first step and reach out for a companion on the journey by contacting us.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

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