Monday, October 24, 2011

Tell Me, What Is It You Plan To Do . . .

I'm not sure that "plan" is an applicable verb in my life anymore.  I do have plans, but it seems kind of silly to make them.

Once in awhile when I was in seminary, I would conclude that preparation for ministry was intended to be a young woman's (or man's) game.  Trying to balance academic and internship schedules and assignments with the demands and crises and tragedies of middle-aged life was a highly suspect endeavor.  (Once I muttered that one of the expectations was unreasonable, and the professor to whom I was speaking responded in surprise, "It's not a problem for most of our students."  Well, no.  They did not have families in another city, aging parents, grieving children, and third mortgages.)

Last summer the Jesuits produced a series of short videos in which a young man described, with great energy and excitement, the path leading to his upcoming ordination.  I watched with envy ~ not only was the great event almost upon him, while for me it was beginning to seem increasingly unlikely tht it would ever happen, but he was in a system which would never have permitted him to languish for nearly a full year after graduation and ordination exams. 

And now: If all goes well, when I wake up next Monday morning, I will be an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament.  I will have surgery a few weeks later (I think.)  And I will gradually start to reclaim the fragments of work and responsibility that I have had to relinquish in these past weeks in which cancer has so rudely and pervasively intruded into my life. 

But really, deeply, what is it that I plan to do with my one wild and precious life?

I plan to pay attention, to the joy and excitement and grief and terror that intermingle with such persistence in each human life.  Perhaps it is from the eye of that hurricane that envelops us all that ministry emerges.


Giving credit where credit is due:

The Summer Day

~ Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


  1. I think that's right about ministry. If I had to answer Mary Oliver's question right now, I would say: To be open to love, no matter how unexpectedly it presents itself, and to tell the truth about it.

  2. Yes. Plans. I never think of my plans in concrete terms, more my best to live with and in hope and gratitude.

  3. God, I love Mary Oliver. What I plan to do is learn how to "be idle and blessed." That seems to be what the Almighty has in mind for me right now.