There's this beautiful old tree overlooking the Reedy River and Falls Park that has affectionately been named The Medusa Tree. It stands, all of its roots exposed from soil erosion and weathered storms, with a quiet sort of dignity that makes my breath catch every time I stop to look. For me, the tree serves as a bit of an altar, reminding me that growth really is worth the risk of vulnerability.
I've been thinking a lot about discipline lately. Specifically, the spiritual discipline of slow growth.
In the spirit of transparency, there are a whole host of reasons that I would simply rather not write about this -- namely that I am so painfully aware of my own lack of discipline. I suppose the bottom line is that there are still so many things that I am learning to love about living in this skin and bones. Self-compassion and patience with the process have never been my default, simply because I don't want to need them as much as I do. I don't want to be this messy work in progress. On my best days, living into the tension of being and becoming is uncomfortable and revealing. On my worst days, when I haven't been sleeping enough or drinking enough water and I've spent too much time on the internet, the tension crashes into my anxiety and shame and feels excruciatingly lonely, and I exhaust myself running the rat race. In an effort to keep up, I wonder if I am enough -- tempering here and blurring there to make myself more palatable (and for whom?). I still want to believe that I have, somehow, arrived. I keep trying to hold myself together, and this perfect love keeps showing up to undo me.
The ever-present temptation is to pick up my fig leaves and hide, attempting to cover up my own need by saying and doing all the right things, as if the empty spaces in my soul could be magically filled up by my own ability to be enough. I am the naked garden daughter, greedily choking down the flesh of too many lies -- hands wrung, eyes fixed on the ground, terrified and longing for the safety of a home I traded away in an effort to know it all, have it all, and be it all.
I've read all the books and heard all the sermons about life in the arena, but at the end of the day, it is still up to me to wake up every day and commit to doing the hard and holy work of cultivating the kind of life I want. Some days, I wonder if it is truly worth it to lay down my pride and pick up a cross. Can I shed this layer of protection so that you can see and touch the spaces where I'm wounded and still being redeemed -- still learning to be kind? Will I survive if I put my whole unprotected self out there?
Maybe not, but perhaps that's the point -- this death to the ideal self so that the truest self might be brought to fullness of life.
I've spent the past two Saturday mornings physically and mentally stretching myself in yoga class. I've found beauty and grace in the slow, rhythmic repetition of movements, the gentle building of endurance as I try to reach a little bit farther than before. Last week, our instructor, Nancy, shared about how the body always wants to take the path of least resistance. Choosing to bring it into correct posture and alignment isn't always glamorous -- often, it's wobbly and awkward, and sometimes we forget how to breathe.
Sometimes it's late in the afternoon before I realize I've been holding my breath all day. I forget that the rise and fall of my chest with each inhale and exhale declares His name: YHWH. So I go to yoga and do crossword puzzles and kiss my husband and drink the wine and wash the dishes by hand and close the computer and decide to focus on the rhythm and sound of my own breathing.
And sometimes, springtime sneaks up to remind me that the rest of creation is reaching upward with me, synapses firing as we are, all of us, alive -- empty and full and still being emptied and filled. In the end, it turns out to be more than just enough.