Two Calls to Adventure came this spring. One was from Watershed in response to my frustration with the lack of vision at the inner city high school where I work. If only we had a visionary leader or plan to see our work in a new way. "Go to the Spiral Dynamics conference and find out how plans don't really matter - the work of the Spirit is what matters," Paul said. In mythic language I was being asked to find out "Who does the Grail serve?"
Refusal of the call
As much as I liked being invited to go to the Spiral conference, I found all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't go. If Paul was saying it wasn't the answer anyways, why should I waste the weekend and the money? After meeting Marilyn, the facilitator, the suspicions increased. In my insecurity I concocted all kinds of reasons not to go: did Marilyn have anything to teach us from her right quadrant/objective perspective? What would I do surrounded by the beautiful people I assumed would be there? But community confronted my ambivalence with the word that in focusing on my insecurities, I had forgotten the call. They invited me in faith to enter the conference, knowing that we had no idea where it would lead us, but to trust that we were being led.
A second call to adventure came when a colleague asked if I'd be a chaperone for a group of students traveling to Quebec City for a business competition. With tensions between Dave and I active, I looked forward to a chance to escape my domestic circumstances. The destination of Quebec City, such an old city with so much character, hooked my traveling bug too. But soon after I agreed to go, I became anxious about my ability to self-extend and be on-the-job for seven days straight. My history of botched traveling attempts due to personality conflicts fed the anxiety. Once again it was the guidance to trust that provided perspective. When Paul suggested that I view the trip not as a vacation but as a journey that would teach me/us something, I felt relieved. I was being invited to see myself accompanied by God. Whereas I couldn't promise to be on psychologically or spiritually, I could submit to a journey in faith. The day before I left, another traveling aid came in the form of an email from Linda that included St. Patrick's prayer. I took this prayer as my bookmark during the week:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every person who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
The week before leaving for Quebec, Linda and I attended the Spiral Dynamics intregal conference in Winnipeg: an event that became a portal. Going meant 'Crossing the First Threshold'. Before going Linda and I were struggling with our understanding of the orange meme: how could we feel an affinity for the materialistic, greed-orientation of this value? Paul offered the gift of understanding when he paired our desire to learn with the acquisition of new skills and competencies associated with this meme. The light of this newly identified desire to learn and lean into the next developmental level melted my insecurity about not being good enough to attend the conference. I was going to learn.
The conference provided a broader understanding of the v-memes, specifically how important it is to develop the capacity of each v-meme as a base for the others. I was taught to value each v-meme, to see each as a dynamic rather than static part of our lives and to see the value of inviting the development of each v-meme in my own life if the conditions come up. I also saw how often I am closed and refuse to learn from my life conditions.
With this renewed openness to learn from whatever life put in front of me, I set off for Quebec City with my colleague Cora and four aboriginal students.
The excitement of traveling soon waned when we sat down at the Toronto airport for lunch while waiting for our flight to Quebec City. Cora realized that she had lost the $1800 that was to fund the last three days of our trip. Worried that she had ruined the trip for the girls, she fell apart. With Cora in tears, I woke up to the need in front of us: first the lunch needed to be paid for, then I wanted the girls to know they didn't need to get caught up in Cora's emotion, that everything would work out and regardless of the lost money, we would have what we needed to get by. I think this event prepared me for the rest of the trip. "You are needed to serve." I heard. I was here to be as aware and responsive as I could be.
The understanding that I was at the conference to serve something larger than myself seemed natural. Following the conference schedule and paying attention to what needed to be done freed up my usual personal concerns. I felt oddly free of my usual emotions: anger, irritation, and despair. Intuitively I knew these emotions would distract me from service.
At the same time I noticed how mundane most of my interactions with people were. I knew I wasn't in Quebec for myself, but I also wondered if I was merely surviving and betraying something - maybe the presence of Christ that St. Patrick's prayer promises. In a desire to exercise my heart and mind, I prayed that I would be open to God's presence. Oddly enough, it was at the final event of the conference, the dinner and dance that I tried to convince Cora to leave early from, that I think this prayer was answered. Because our students won first prize in the business competition, I met a woman named Lorna from Alberta who came over to congratulate us. Our conversation quickly turned to questions of what it meant to have integrity while working in the system - what it means to work with aboriginal communities whose elders speak of the Creator but whose youth have little reason to live, what it means to be hired in positions of change in a world where change takes generations and is out of our hands anyway. When I mentioned how the myth of Sisyphus had been my guide at RB, she smiled saying that's how she had made sense of this world when she started teaching, but now toward the end of her career it was the myth of the phoenix rising from the ashes that gave her hope. This conversation that began around midnight buoyed my spirits; I felt camaraderie with this colleague two provinces away and was reminded of how all our plans are in the Creator's hands.
I had mounds of energy in returning home. I felt buoyed by being a helpful rather than a hindering participant in people's lives. I felt renewed by the focus demanded by the week as a chaperone and the subsequent inattention to the voice in my head and personal concerns.
At the same time, I have returned home to find that the rut in which I was living doesn't feel right anymore. I found out that I can make a positive difference in people's lives, but I came home to a life of passivity where I look more to other people to enact change than I take responsibility for myself. Then, rather than looking at my own passivity, I've felt irritated by how I see others living. I've dived into issues at work stirring the waters with inarticulate and critical spewings that haven't seemed very helpful. Contrary to my journey experience of serving, I'm finding that nothing that I do out of this aggressive energy makes any difference.
Who does the Grail serve? When the ordering capacities that I was graced with on the journey are used in service of those whose care is entrusted to me, the Grail serves God. When I use this bounding energy to find fault in everything around me, the Grail serves nothing.
I wish I could wake up every day to the need to serve. There would be little time for the distractions of irritation or arrogance and even less concern about how others live. I would assume the need to bear my own burdens and be well in myself so those around me could, in turn, be well. God, make my life a journey. Help me to learn to see every day as a journey in service to you.