All the World's a Stage

So, when it comes to your spiritual life, are you a player, or a watcher?  Are you on the mainstage or in the audience at this point in your life, this Lent?

Obviously we play different parts, are in different realms in the various areas and arenas of our lives.  In different seasons we do different things.  And it takes both actors and audiences to make the experience real and complete.  One is not better than the other, provided that you aren't always in the same mode, day in and day out, year after year. 
I remember a time when I just sat and watched - many more times than one time, really - and that was what I needed to do.  I didn't have enough emotional energy, enough water in the well, to do more than sit and let others' prayers wash over me and hold me up.  I needed to see how others were living out their faith so that I could be assured that yes, it's possible and here are ways people do it.  They pray, they read the Bible and devotional materials, they come to church, they walk the labyrinth or go to Taize services or attend quiet days.  They participate in foyer groups and book groups and do popcorn theology at movie night in the parish hall.  They hike.  They go to a retreat center and be quiet for a few days.  They walk on the beach.  They write prayers and devotions.  They visit people in the hospital, build Habitat houses, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  And they care for others and allow others to care for them.

I have learned so much from watching others and especially from allowing others to show me what their faith looks like without my getting competitive about it, without my needing to do what they do as well as they do it.  We extroverts sometimes have trouble with this.  We want to be in the middle of everything, doing, being busy, acting, talking, playing.  

And so at first during those dry spells, I felt like a failure, a washout, spiritually weak.  I used to feel that I always had to be "on."  I'm not sure what I thought would happen if I were "off" - perhaps I'd just not exist any more, I don't know.  Perhaps it was a vestige of my religious upbringing, from which I got the message that if you weren't "feeling it" then perhaps you were backsliding.  And we all know where that leads.

But allowing myself to be in the spiritual audience has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life, including after ordination to the priesthood.  I had to face the fact that not only is everything not up to me, but that this is the way it's supposed to be.  We are the Body of Christ and that means all of us have our parts to play, together.  It's not a monologue, a one woman show, a series of scenes in which I play the lead or even the only faithful sidekick.

What a joy it is to let that go, to journey together with others in whatever formation seems appropriate at the time.  Sometimes as leader, sometimes as follower, sometimes as bit part, sometimes just sitting there watching, grateful that it's not all up to me.  

Jesus was in the wilderness, not getting away from it all but wrestling with Satan, with temptation, with God only knows what.  And when he was nearly all spent, he was ministered to by angels.  So I figure, if it's good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for me. 


Jean Stafford said…
'And when he was nearly all spent, he was ministered to by angels.'

Oh, Penny how this offering spoke to me!! Tickled to find your Blog and be able to follow!!
Thanks, Jean! Glad to have you 'aboard.'
Perpetua said…
Penny, thank you so much for that. I can really identify with what you wrote as it's how I felt for a very long time after retiring from full-time parish ministry. I had a lot of relearning to do and it's been a slow process, but the balance is much better now.
Perpetua, learning is truly a lifelong process, isn't it?!
Charles said…
Thanks Penny!
Although I come from a very different church tradition -I have found reading this blog a very helpful and refreshing experience
Nancy Wallace said…
It seems to me there's a time to do and a time to just be and if in the just being times we're not "feeling it" as you put it, then it may mean we just need a rest - a time to be refreshed. When did Jesus ever say his followers should always be on a spiritual 'high' or always busy doing things for the kingdom?
Charles, I am glad you find help and refreshment here. Thanks for letting me know!

Nancy, you are right, but it has taken me some time to live into "just being."