Comfort and Joy
I have some very perceptive classmates in my spiritual direction program. This is what one said to me a few weeks ago. The observation surprised me, both because of its direct nature but also because I wasn't fully aware that I was acting like that.
At the time, I was holding some news inside that I couldn't yet share with very many people: that of my upcoming transition. And really, not only that but also everything that would need to happen as a part of that: navigating goodbyes with my current call, home buying and selling issues, worries about how Coffeeson will react to the move. All of that had been swirling inside me for weeks, so it really shouldn't have been much of a surprise that it was affecting my behavior.
One thing that provided comfort in the midst of that was the appearance of Christmas decorations in my neighborhood. For all my bluster about how early stores begin touting Christmas in different ways and why can't Thanksgiving be left alone and so on, I have welcomed the lights and music this year with open arms, not for its own sake necessarily but for what it represents: a time of year where we are especially attentive to joy, peace on earth, goodwill toward all. It is a time when the Peanuts kids sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" slightly off-key and Jimmy Stewart gets his second chance at life and we nurse warm holiday drinks by only the light of the tree and A Christmas Story is going to be on all day and I can sing all those songs that I only let myself sing this time of year. And this year I'm wrapping myself in all of it like a thick, warm blanket.
This season and its promises have been and will be part of my foundation during a time of change. They bring me comfort and joy. God is giving me rest through them.
This past Saturday I had an all-day workshop with my classmates. As it happens, we discussed Ignatius' ideas about discernment, how spiritual consolation brings us closer to God while spiritual desolation disrupts our relationship with God, and the features of each. It was also the first time I shared my news with that group of people. And that same perceptive classmate said, "You've seemed much more open, both at class last Wednesday and today. Your spirit is glowing more. Before that it was like you were carrying a huge burden."
What can I say? She was right then, and she's right now. I like to think that, even though I can freely share what's going on now, this season and all that it brings has a lot to do with it, too.