Monday, December 15, 2008

Swinging on the trapeze

Last week, I went to Fresh Start, which is an Episcopal Church program for clergy who are (1) newly ordained or (2) new to "cure," the churchy word for new-on-the-job. Each time we are new we are supposed to go through Fresh Start, so this, by my count, is my third go at Fresh Start in the last 10 years. Maybe even fourth, because I was in a pilot program as a transitional deacon before the launch of Fresh Start. No jokes about my being remedial, please.

The best part of Fresh Start is making new friends and connecting with priests and deacons who are in transition like me. We meet once a month to mostly yack and hear a presentation about something. Here in Virginia, I am not the only Californian in my Fresh Start; there are three others from the Golden State whom I've met, and their presence is immensely important to me in ways I cannot articulate. I've also made new friends, like Peter Carey of Richmond, and his welcome means a lot to me (and he has a cool blog: Santos Popsicles).

Last week we heard The Parable of the Trapeze, by Danaan Parry. It is a story of how the most growth-filled passionate moments of our lives come as a we swing out from the familar and into the unknown. I am repeating the parable, in full, here, and linking it to the copyrighted website from whence it comes. See if this parable rings true with you.  And, I would suggest, there is truth in this parable not just for us as individuals, but for us as as a congregation at St. Paul's, or for my friends at All Souls, or at Trinity Cathedral, or the Episcopal Church writ-large, or our nation under a new president, or the economy, or wherever you may be or whatever your situation.

Here it is. Enjoy. Feel free to lend your comments. Oh, by the way, I have taken circus lessons and swung on the trapeze. The hardest part for me was the launch...

By Danaan Parry

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I'm either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I'm hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I'm in control of my life.

I know most of the right questions and even some of the answers.

But every once in a while as I'm merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It's empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.

Each time, I am filled with terror. It doesn't matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. I am each time afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between bars. I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. So, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of "the past is gone, the future is not yet here."

It's called "transition." I have come to believe that this transition is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a "no-thing," a noplace between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that's real, too. But the void in between? Is that just a scary, confusing, disorienting nowhere that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible?

NO! What a wasted opportunity that would be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim -- love your trapeze hoppin', bell-ringin' blog. Looks like Lori's surgery worked! Blessings upon your holy days -- Carolyn Konrad