Leave your heart ajar

Everything changes. Our relationships, our jobs, our beliefs, our experiences, our bodies, our opinions, our hopes, our tastes, our waist sizes, you name it. Everything changes. But there are strands weaving through our lives from early childhood that connect us with a sense of our particular purpose and passion. It may take a while to see them, but in time they form lines of color and light through the web of our lives, creating the beauty we are in the world.

I am leaning into a big change. And it is one for which I have been hoping, praying, and preparing for years, though I did not know it’s form. I am beginning a a job to address issues of violence, peace, justice, and reconciliation on a full time basis. This will require some significant sacrifices including a move from Seattle (which I love) to Louisville, KY … and without my family for now.

It feels really big.

And beautiful.life

Sometime in my grade school years, I knew I was called to some sort of “ministry”, i.e. caring work with people, contemplating and exploring a life of the spirit, listening to and celebrating voices on the margins, and writing and sharing music. I have pursued that in various capacities throughout my life and it has been confirmed nearly every time. And I have always tried to leave my heart ajar.

The recent process of arriving at where I am now, which is really as much a beginning as an arriving, is worth sharing. I do not enter into this alone.

About 5 years ago, something inside me began festering. A discontent emerged that I knew was about vocation. Through that time, I did some serious emotional work about my family of origin, particularly around alcoholism and my sense of my own influence in the world. Something inside me started shifting.

At the same time, I began trying to change the skeptic I had relied on for so many years. I began to dislike and eventually debunk cynicism, which truthfully was counter-intuitive to my educational deconstruction process and my experience with reality. I remember saying one day, “I’m tired of the cynic. It hasn’t given me anything. And it hasn’t moved me anywhere fruitful.” Bit by blessed bit, I was building a sense of well-being and agency in the world. no-cynicism2

Then, 3 years ago, I became part of a spiritual companions group which is a place for listening to myself and God like nothing else I had experienced. I let go of some relationships and ideas that were weights on my shoulders.

About 6 months ago, I invited a cadre of people who know me in different capacities into a time of discernment as I sought to bring together my various passions into a full time, forward-moving gig. The 3 areas were peace & justice, music, and Jesus. (These are the most colorful threads in my life.) These people asked kind, sometimes probing questions, prayed, and put their ears to the ground for me. A few months later, an amazing job possibility came up and as soon as I read the job description, I was electrified. There truly aren’t many vocations/positions/places that would fit this juxtaposition of “me-ness”. But it seemed unlikely I would be considered seriously. Until I told others about it. And their eyes lit up and said things like, “OMG! This is so YOU!” and “Of course you are applying for it!”

At that point, after some conversations with my immediate family, I invited a much smaller circle of  heart friends into the process with me. These are people who understand what it means to live into their life callings against the norms of logic, convenience, and what is possible. They know what it means to listen to their lives and to leave the window rolled down in their hearts. Every step of the way I felt surrounded with support and encouragement. There were voice messages, emails, and minutes before I went into the interview, I received texts from a half dozen people saying they were with me. I walked into the room to meet my new colleagues (though none of us knew this) with a sense of joy and wonder… and this much loved living cloud of witnesses. I felt their presence with me, their belief in me, their love, and their cheering. It was truly amazing.

It was a risk, you know, inviting them so deeply into my life. Kind as they are, they might think I was out on a woo-woo limb. They might want to protect me from being disappointed. They might believe that choosing to live what is most important to me is a really sweet idea, but not realistic. They might say any of these things. But they didn’t.

Our work in the world is so much bigger than we imagine it to be. Even where we are standing right now. The limits we put on what we will do and who we will become are usually just that: self-imposed limits. The impossible calls to us every day – from behind the sunrise, in the hands of the beggar, through our imagination, woven in the deepest longings of our hearts. We can laugh it off or ignore it.

Or we can dig a little deeper, trust that good happens even in difficulty, and leave our hearts ajar.


This entry was posted in Calling, justice, Peacemaking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Leave your heart ajar

  1. Shannon, thank you for sharing this. I’m so impressed by you. – and I’m really curious as to what helped you kick your inner cynic to the curb. Did you read any specific books, pray about it, join an organization (Cynics Anonymous….)? I’m a cynic. It’s not healthy. I try not to be one, but I am.

  2. shannonbeck2 says:

    I’m not very impressive. I fail a lot. Change takes time and intention, prayer and failure. It all starts with gratitude, I think. I have come to believe that living a life of gratitude is the key to the spiritual life – and can transform us when we let it (hence the ajar part). There are risks to this way of being in the world… and such joy! Surround yourself with hopeful, joyful people. As much as possible! And really, the cynicism was killing my faith and joy. So, it had to go!

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