Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Seeking and Finding

As my little congregation continues to wrestle with some pretty deep organizational and spiritual challenges, I find myself struggling with where my own prayer and meditation fits into the whole paid staffer thing.

On the one hand, it's easy to get sucked into the organizational dynamics of the church. It's the prepping of budgets and crafting of strategic planning memos, having Serious Discussions About Our Future, then more meetings, planning retreats, and then having still more meetings. It's the Presbyterian way, and it's work, in the same way that secular work is work. You are earning your keep. You are making sure you add value to the organization. You're an employee.

But there are days when what the Spirit wants me to do is anything but sit in my office dithering over the details of this Sunday's liturgy, or using mindmapping software to conceptualize possible futures for the ministry, or scurrying to another meeting. I feel the need to go deep and be centered, to go focus, to leave the office and the demands of the church as an organization. Though church is typically the center of my faith life, I do find myself with the deep Jesus urge to get the heck out of Dodge now and again. The conflicts and struggles that have recently riven my little community color the spirit of the sanctuary, particularly when I'm seeking calm. And as I feel the stresses and uncertainties of my own life like shards of glass around my heart, I know I'm not providing the conduit to the Creator's presence that the church needs.

But...where to go?

I prefer walking meditation, and I do walk. But I also find need for stillness. Problem is...where to find it? Where to find a little sacred space, where I can be securely away from people and their scurrying and bustling? In seminary, that place was an old dusty storeroom above the chapel entrance. But I've been feeling that yearning for a new place lately.

On Sunday, I went looking for such a quiet place, walking mindfully through the woods that run alongside the banks of the Potomac. Perhaps a well placed log by the waterside? Or a little grotto speckled with flowers and leaf-scattered light?

As I searched by the riverside for a place that might serve for silent prayer, I came across a tree. It was a great immense thing, thickening out so much enough around the base that four grown men couldn't put their arms fully around it. It sat by the waterside, within both view and earshot of the soft nickering of the flood-browned river. Where living wood met earth, I found a natural opening, half my height and shaped like a door. Inside that door into the tree, there was a dirt floored room more than six feet in diameter, with a ceiling that rose up beyond my outstretched arm into dark moist stillness. It was, for all intents and purposes, a little prayer cell.

Seek, and ye shall find.