“Do you have any idea who I am?” The man, a passenger, apoplectic with flushed cheeks, pounding the counter, shouting at the airline agent. Everyone in the departure lounge can hear, and is on edge. (Although, a few take out their phones poised for a YouTube worthy video.) “This will not do,” he harangued. “Do you know who I am? Get your boss down here. I’m going to have your job and I’m going to have their job. Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?”
The young woman behind the counter didn’t flinch or shout back. Remarkable really. She was indeed, a non-anxious presence. Instead, she got on the public address system and said, “Ladies and gentlemen in the departure lounge, I need your help. There’s a man at the counter who apparently doesn’t know who he is.”
Lord have mercy, I still laugh every time I remember the young attendant’s wisdom.
And I shake my head, because I know that in different ways, I have “pounded my share of counters.” In other words, I give my identity over (become a prisoner to) an identity not my own. Where did Terry go?
This is not surprising in a world where we are encouraged to look for our identity in all the wrong places—the human ego enamored by roles, titles, status, and concocted self-images. They are not objectively “real,” nor are they our true and deepest self. I hide the best me.
And in that light, Jesus’ caution makes sense. “Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it.” (Matthew’s Gospel) It’s time to come home.
Recently, during Passover, Rabbi Ted Falcon reminded me that Jewish tradition translates Mitzrayim, Hebrew for Egypt, as mi tzarim, “from out of the tight places.” Yes. We all meet tight places in our lives, where we find ourselves stuck. But the deeper kind of enslavement is stuckness in an untruthful ego identity.
Here’s my confession. I’ve been on a journey to find my way home. Many can relate. And our reasons for being lost vary; fear from uncertainty, life turns left, the shine of public opinion beckons, a need for approval (or fear of disapproval) rules the roost.
So. How do we live out this Passover invitation to “pass over” this identity limitation (captivity to a limiting self) and embrace the vastly greater wisdom, love, and compassion at our very core?
This is not easy, because what I see is broken. And in our world, brokenness never presents well. And I give way to fear; I run and hide, or I pound counters.
It helps to know where to look.
A man loses his keys and is on hands and knees searching.
A passerby stops. “I’ll help you,” he says, “Where’d you lose them?”
“Over there,” the man points.
“But why are you looking over here?” the passerby asks. “The light is better over here,” he says.
Jacob, almost 70, finds himself in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s. For over 20 years a clinical psychologist and mediator, Jacob is now acutely aware that his faculties are deteriorating. On occasion his mind and recall are totally blank. At times he needs help with rudimentary physical tasks. Even so, Jacob’s spirit does not break.
At a retreat with Tara Brach, Jacob is asked, “How can you be so accepting toward your disease?”
He said simply, “Because it doesn’t feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it all feels like real life.”
Jacob told Tara a story about an experience at an event–which happened in the earlier stages of the disease–when he traveled and gave talks about Buddhism. On one occasion, a hundred meditation students gathered alert and eager. He looked out at the expectant faces, and suddenly didn’t know what to say or do. He didn’t know where he was or why he was there. With his heart pounding and his mind spinning in confusion, Jacob put his palms together at his heart, and began naming, out loud, what was happening inside; “Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I’m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, lost.” In time he relaxed and grew calm. He lifted his head. And apologized to the audience. Students were in tears. “No one has ever taught us like this,” said many.
Which begs the question, “What exactly did he teach?”
Authenticity is strength.
Do you have any idea who I am? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m a broken man, and unashamed to say so. You see, that’s how the light gets in. The Sufi saying affirms, while stuck and lost, “I was a hidden treasure.”
So, here’s the deal: I am no longer afraid to broken, and humble, because I know that I am a child of God, imbued with dignity. It is in these broken places that joy and gratitude and commitment and loving kindness and gentleness and courage come alive. No longer self-absorbed or afraid, I give way to radical openness, curiosity and reverence.
“To have a reverence always for the immensity that is inside of you,” John O’Donohue said in an interview, “The wild flow of energy in the well of the soul. It is impossible to stop the well of energy and the well of light and the well of life that is inside of you. You might calm it and quell it, but it will still rise up within you.”
This week I devoured a bucket of popcorn watching Avengers: Endgame. Let’s just say there was a lot of popcorn served this past week.
Each of the superheroes is dealing with disillusionment and sense of failure or resignation. Thor is clearly not himself. He goes back in time to retrieve the reality stone (red matter) from Jane in Asgard. And he runs into Frigga, his mother. And she gives some comforting advice. “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be. A measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.”
Big week. May Day. Which is translation for, lilac season is here. It makes my heart sing. National Day of Prayer, which could be every day. And Cinco de Mayo (which could also happen more frequently.) It’s still a week to Mother’s Day, so don’t panic quite yet.
I enjoyed two great books this week, David Brook’s The Second Mountain, David Brooks and Howard Thurman’s Jesus and the Disinherited.
Quote for your week…
You become freer to be yourself, not because you finally found a place where you are protected from feeling what you don’t want to feel, but because you welcomed those unwanted feelings and lived to tell the tale. Maybe your idealized image of yourself didn’t survive, but you did. Kim Rosen
SABBATH MOMENT BULLETIN BOARD
Today’s photo credit — Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, Canada… Dale Myers… thank you Dale… grateful for your photos… send to email@example.com
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Misc. in the mailbag…
–Terry Hershey, I am almost finished with The Power of Pause. Awesome insights into the human heart. I am going through my second bout with cancer right now, and your book has become a place where I can hurry up and slow down. Blessings! Don
–I have heard nothing but rave reviews of the retreat. Our next one in two years will be hard pressed to meet or surpass Shrine Mont as this one exceeded everyone’s expectations! I’m also hearing from spouses that ‘you guys must have had a good time’. Everyone is talking it up! All of the sessions felt like a group of friends were being led by a friend and yet it was very open and non-threatening. Thank you, Les
–So glad about your heavenly garden! We took a week to recover up in our home of 28 years in the mountains near Winter Park. It was healing to be where flowers were blooming, trees green and fresh air and mountain streams flowed. We saw a baby long ear owl in our back yard trees. The mother came nightly to feed it. My mother in law LOVED owls and when we saw it, never before having seen an owl in the back yard, my 8 year old grandson said “Oh, there’s Grandma! She’s here to remind us she’s still with us and still loves us!” It was the sweetest moment and never to be forgotten. The owl was there every day for the week we were there, and flew for its first time the day we left…. a sacred moment to be sure… Sending you garden love! Karen
–Loved this message today. Thank you. Our leaders in our world are trying to build walls to keep “undesirables” out. A very terrible plan. We are all the same under God’s eyes. Some of us are needing more than others. My heart breaks, for those fleeing these countries due to the horrors of violence. If only there were a bridge to safety for all of these struggling for a better life. Lois
–Terry, as I read your current Sabbath Moment, I have just crossed the Ponte Pietra into historic district of Verona Italy. Your moving imagery of bridges is felt deeply. From an always delighted SM follower, My thanks and best to you, Carol
–I’ve enjoyed and supported you for years Terry but, I read this two ways: connecting back to my family and then against OUR PRESIDENT. I hope the later is not so…if so I will no longer receive your messages. Kim
–I wanted to tell you how much your Monday emails mean to me. It allows me to start my week on a high note, in a positive light. I am so grateful to have attended one of your workshops in San Luis Obispo and to be on your Sabbath Moment list. Peace and Joy, Susan
–Nice SM… helped me take another step toward a close(once) friend! B
–Excellent message. Some bridges are difficult to build, and we need bridge builders. Thank you. Kent
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
After the good earth
where the body knows itself to be real
and the mad flight
where it gives itself to the world,
we give ourselves to the rhythm of love
leaving the breath
to know its way home.
And after the first pure fall,
the last letting go, and the calm
breath where we go to rest,
we’ll return again to find it
and feel again the body welcomed,
the body held,
the strong arms of the world,
the water, the waking at dawn
and the thankful, almost forgotten,
curling to sleep with the dark.
The old wild place beyond all shame.
A Prayer for the sick and infirmed
As our earthy clothing becomes torn and tattered
in the rough and tumble
so it goes with our bodies.
Why is this Lord we ask?
Some of us, we suffer.
Why us we ask?
Is this fair we ask?
Please Lord open our eyes and our ears.
Some die before others.
And whose turn is next?
Who sets this clock?
Please Lord open us to understanding,
Why are some of us chosen for this journey
of the “The Sick and Infirmed.”
What is our purpose now?
We wrestle to make sense of our suffering, of the uncertainty.
Give us a hint Lord.
We know that you are the Wellspring of Mercy.
This mercy is what ultimately will bring us to peace.
In the shelter of this peace we are hoping
some of the answers will appear.
May the tangles in our minds be loosened, our knots untied.
May the knowing of your bigger picture bridge over
our times of personal smallness.
We are grateful.
We are hopeful.
Give us strength.
Lead us through.
All in the name of our Savior. Amen.
Phil Volker 5/2/19 National Day of Prayer