“In the garden of gentle sanity
May you be bombarded by coconuts of
wakefulness.” –Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
A little over two years ago, I sat in a booth at The Blue Strawberry in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, nursing an Americano. Across the booth from me was my life coach, Charlynn. Over a year into our monthly sessions, Charlynn was describing a retreat center she had recently visited when she said, “That’s the perfect job for you! You should be director of a retreat center.” While both of us thought she was onto something, even Charlynn admitted that it seemed a little specific as a career option, with limited opportunities available. Despite that, I am happy and humbled to tell you today that, in a little over a week, I will take up the reins as Director of a Franciscan ecospirituality center.
The path from that day to this day has been full of bumps and blind corners. Or, as the quote above would characterize them, “coconuts of wakefulness”. If you’ve ever been hit over the head with a coconut, real or metaphoric, you’ll understand that my experiences have been sometimes painful. But pain is only one thread of the tapestry. Last week, I wrote about faith, hope and love – and their shadow twins (as described by Parker Palmer) doubt, despair and pain. Each time I’ve been about to slide irrevocably into the shadowed realm *BONK*, I’d be hit over the head with wakefulness – an experience that heightened my awareness of the moment, that brought me back to the light.
For this post, I tried to separate faith, hope and love into three individual strands, so that I could share “coconut” stories of each, and how my understanding of each has developed over this journey. What I’ve discovered is that they are so intertwined in lived experience that I can’t really take them individually.
When I was at the edge of financial ruin, frightened and paralyzed by self-doubt, and an anonymous gift of $500 in cash was handed to me (or when a friend bought four new tires for my car, or came for the weekend to lavish attention upon me), was that gift awakening me to an important truth about love? About hope? Or about faith? In all honesty, the unexpected, unlooked-for, unearned generosity of others has been a big old coconut to the head for all three.
For one, it has awakened me to the deep truth of these words:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
—1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
For two, it has consistently reminded me to keep the faith that there is a bigger picture that we can’t see from where we’re standing. Right here, right now, we can see what is in this moment. But the faith, hope, and love we experience in the present are individual brush strokes in the huge canvas that is a life. And it is a canvas we are not painting alone. Even in those moments when we feel most alone, there are other hands holding brushes and creating with us. I can take this on faith, because I have been privileged to occasionally glimpse it in live action.
For three, it has given me an injection of hope when most needed. Hope, which gets me dressed and out the door every day even when things are hard – even when there is a polar vortex holding steady right over my head. When I felt lost to myself and a friend invited me to join a writing group: hope. When I needed to connect, and was welcomed on a team: hope. When I was beaten down by rejection, but pushed, prodded, and encouraged to try again: hope.
Wouldn’t it make a great story to say that Charlynn and I mapped out a plan while sitting at The Blue Strawberry and, VOILA!, the plan has finally come to fruition. The truth is more complex, and (maybe) more miraculous than that: There was no plan. But we did set an intention: I would follow my intuition and my heart’s desires where they would lead. It was an intention to be guided by faith, hope, and love to wherever I am meant to be. I cannot thank those who have walked this crooked path with me enough – for your generosity, kindness, friendship. I cannot repay you; I can only assure you that I will continue to need your presence, and that I will attempt in every way to pay the abundance you’ve shared with me forward to others (and hopefully loop it back to you as well).
I have no idea what the future holds in store, I only know that I’m stepping onto a new path soon (actually, the transition has already begun). What I do know, thanks to some well-placed *BONKS* to the head is this:
…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.