The Warden’s Corner
Life lessons can occur at any time, but I find that I learn things easier and faster while traveling.
My kids have heard the stories of these lessons and the guiding principles gained many times. There’s the story of my 20th birthday, experienced while I was in Paris for the first time as a wide-eyed, hopeful student. That’s when I learned that if you are carrying a heavy duffel bag for hours as you walk across the city to your hostel, and it is raining and cold, and your friends don’t remember that it’s your birthday…you can be cold, tired and miserable…even in Paris! So, the lesson is—wherever you go, there YOU are. You’re still you and the rules of biology and personality and everything else still apply, even in the most romantic, magical city in the world.
There’s the story about getting on the wrong train and ending up in Naples instead of Brindisi, Italy. I mistakenly guided my friends to the wrong train and we arrived on the wrong side of Italy. I messed up our entire, carefully planned travel schedule. I was mortified and upset, ready to hitchhike across Italy to get us back on track. My friends said “no!” to that idea and we stayed for a couple of amazing days in Naples and Pompeii exploring pizza and ancient ruins. That’s where I learned that you can change your plans. Flexibility and revising are really awesome!
The story about saying “yes” to opportunities comes from our time in Singapore. Rich and I went to a touristy circus-sort of show in Bintan, Indonesia. We were part of a sparse crowd, sitting in bleachers, watching the show when the Master of Ceremonies brought out an elephant and asked for a volunteer. We were all hot, tired, and not sure what the volunteer might do. No one raised their hands and the Master looked a little nervous and disappointed. I cautiously raised my hand. He motioned me to the sandy stage and I became part of the elephant show. I was so nervous, but it was magical and fun—an elephant’s trunk gracefully placed a lei around my neck and then walked over me as I lay like a log on the ground! Lesson learned: Say yes!
The recent pilgrimage to France was no different—there were many important lessons to be learned. I’m sure I will someday tell this story to my grandchildren. While we were in Nantes, staying with the people who came to visit St E’s in 2018, there were so many times when I was struggling to understand all the words, struggling to respond with something meaningful using the correct conjugations and tenses, worrying about how the kids were doing…just struggling. My French is rusty and my attention was scattered between the words, the kids, translating--it was a lot! In the swirl of the struggle, I thought about our Pride Sunday service and I was able to “hear what the Spirit” was saying to me. I thought about awe and wonder, about letting God love me as Bishop Gene Robinson recommended, and about hearing differently—listening to the tones, the meaning underneath the words, the intentions. There was so much kindness, so much caring and thoughtfulness and lots of efforts to explain. I relaxed, I felt so peaceful and supported. We were all in really good hands, no need to struggle. Lesson learned: Relax and let God love you.
While travel seems to offer opportunities to learn important lessons, the real value is in living those lessons and using them to enhance my life back at home. Here at home, the lesson about “wherever you go, there you are” helps me remember the importance of attending to concrete needs—people need to eat every day, we need coats and umbrellas, we need rest breaks, we need community and friendship and celebrations. It helps me pay attention to those things and offer friendship, hospitality, nourishment and support.
The lesson about changing plans helps me to remember to be open and flexible, and focus on what really matters. The goal on the trip was to visit Italy, to explore and travel with my friends. It wasn’t about dates and schedules. When I’m flexible and aware of the true goal, I can shift and revise and change the plans so they work for our benefit.
“Say yes” helps me to do just that—say yes to opportunities, yes to showing up, yes to engaging and participating. That’s one of my favorite lessons and it helps motivate me to participate even when I feel tired, or uncertain, or nervous.
The lesson from Nantes, relax and let God love you, is so special to me. Living this lesson in my life back home reminds me of the eucharist and the consistent message that there are “gifts of God for the people of God. ”There are gifts that are freely given and available to all. That we are warmly invited to come, to partake, to be renewed. To seek out opportunities to appreciate the gifts, to appreciate each other.
The lesson of relax and feel loved, let God love you is a little harder to live. It’s hard to relax into the swirl of life, the uncertainty, my limitations, all the imperfections. It’s easy to focus on doing, and of course we all are called to serve. St E’s is a beautiful example of shiny spirits who serve. But we are also called to receive, to enjoy each other’s company, and trees, rivers, books, sermons, raspberries, hugs, music, dance, poetry…all of life, all the gifts. When I notice the swirl, the struggle and I remember that I’m not alone…when I tell myself, “relax and let God love you,” I can breathe deeply. I can respond and connect with the people around me, I can feel the gratitude bubbling up, I am peaceful, I am loved. I’m so grateful for this community of adventurous spirits, seekers and friends who join me in remembering to receive and celebrate God’s gifts!
Robin Lake, Warden