Friday, August 19, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Drawn or Driven?

If you've been following my blog of late, then you know that I am in the beginning stages of giving birth to a dream of starting an urban Christian retreat center in Indianapolis. This endeavor is in partnership with Sustainable Faith in Cincinnati and is called Sustainable Faith Indy.

From the beginning of this dream's inception, I have had tremendous energy for this endeavor. But about two or three weeks ago, the energy changed. It wasn't that I necessarily lost desire, it's more that the passion and movement felt like it was coming from a different place. A more anxious, willful, self-oriented place.

For days now, I've been observing this shift and trying to figure out why my dream had become draining. Through a wonderful book I have been reading, I believe God pointed me to the heart of the matter. I was being driven, not drawn toward this dream.

Margaret Silf, in her book Inner Compass, explains a distinction that St. Ignatious made many centuries ago when he spoke of periods in our life when the inner movement or motives of our heart are drawn toward consolation (in God) or driven toward desolation (away from God).

Smack in the middle of the chapter, she had the audacity to ask me (the reader) a very pointed question: "Am I feeling drawn, powerfully perhaps but always gently, or am I feeling driven?" It took little pondering to know the answer. Driven.

Why had my heart shifted toward desolation and driveness? As I reflect, I see a point when I felt like God was not moving things along solidly enough, quickly enough for my taste. I thought, perhaps, he could use a little help. My help, my initiative, my driveness.

There is something very comfortable, even natural about relying on drive to produce the energy and movement necessary to keep going and continue accomplishing. That's why I think we rarely notice or challenge what's driving us. When I was pressed to stop and clearly ask the question, "Am I being drawn or driven?", it wasn't hard for me to see the source and root of my quest. It was coming from my own self-will and anxiety, rather than from being drawn by God toward God and life and this dream.

One reflection that feels ever-so-subtle is the sense that in my fervor, I began to hide from God. My heart knew that I was straining forward in order to get done what God didn't seem to be getting done. And in the process, I began to follow down the lane of desolation, turning my back upon the precious and faithful presence of God.

So, in the spirit of Margaret Silf and St. Ignatious, may I do a bit of noodling in your life and ask you a question or two:
  • Are you being drawn or driven? Is the movement, action, energy of your life and work coming from a place of consolation or desolation? If you take some time to ponder this question, my guess is you will know.
  • If you are being driven and moving toward desolation, how might you stop in your tracks and reorient your direction toward the One who draws you with loving kindness?
Let's hold one another in prayer that we might give birth to our dreams through the energy and passion of being drawn by God. The fruit of  our life and work will be far sweeter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Faith

Whether you're pregnant with a baby or a dream, during the period when there are no visible signs of life, you have to take it on faith that something is happening "beneath the surface." That's where I find myself these days as I pray for my dream to become reality. A picture has come to mind that gives me reassurance. It's one that Jesus used to help us imagine the nature of God's Kingdom.

“The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” Mark 4: 26-29

God's Kingdom is at work within and through the nature of things. In this parable, Jesus speaks of the "earth producing the crops on its own." Interesting. A seed planted in rich soil naturally sprouts on its own time. A seed of a man planted in the womb of a woman does the same. Magic.

Faith is what we dreamers must have as we go about our lives, asleep or awake, waiting for the seeds of our dreams to break ground and sprout into something visible and tangible. We don't understand how it happens. And we don't have to.

Where do you need to trust that the Kingdom of God is at work, even though you don't see the evidence?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Waiting for Signs of Life

I remember distinctly the awkward period in pregnancy when I knew I was pregnant, but I felt little to no signs of pregnancy. It was after the usual morning sickness had subsided. (Mine, confessedly, was never all that bad.) And it was before my waist began to thicken and belly swell. Most of all, it was before I could feel the little life inside me letting me know he or she was there.

It was an awkward time.

In my head I knew the pregnancy test was positive; the doctor had confirmed it. But nothing else confirmed to me that a baby was on the way.

That's a bit how I feel right now in the birthing of this dream. I've named it and told others about it. But as I do the slow and often unnoticeable things like write a business plan, form a board and meet with potential donors/investors, the dream seems like exactly that....a dream.

I am waiting for signs of life. Confirmations that the dream I am birthing is taking shape and form and one day will be a real, tangible urban retreat center called Sustainable Faith Indy.

So, for now, I take it on faith that the baby's in the bun warmer. (Did I just say that? Where in the world did that expression come from?!)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Giving Birth to Our Dreams: Opening Pandora's Box

If you've ever cracked open the door of your heart to a new dream or desire, then you might feel like I do--like you've just opened Pandora's box. All the desires and interests that accompany your dream, mingled with a brew of anxiety, obsession and impatience seem to pour out of the same spout. 

According to Greek mythology, when Pandora opened her box, supposedly all the contents emptied except one. All the potential evils of the world were released into the atmosphere. One item remained. Hope.

As I wrestle with unpacking this dream of starting an urban retreat center ( SFI ), I see all kinds of emotions and interesting motivations surfacing in the midst of what seems like, feels like, smells like a vision that God has planted within me.

What do I make of this Pandora's box? I've learned in the last few years to pay attention to the mixed bag of things within me and not shame myself for them. (One of the great lessons learned from David Benner in the Gift of Being Yourself--the idea of offering hospitality to your false selves.) Instead, I am trying to be curious and honest; prayerful about what I see that is less than noble and bringing it to God for understanding.

I thought about it today--the fact that I could have left the lid on Pandora's box. I think life would have been easier if I had. But opening it and taking a look inside and wrestling with the contents seems to me a more transforming way. And lo and behold, after all the contents have emptied, there is something left inside. I still have hope.