Over at Abbey of the Arts, the annual search for a word for the coming year is on.
Last year, I eagerly reached for the word frontier. And then, sucked into the quicksand of the Presbyterian ordination process, I forgot all about it.
In retrospect, nevertheless, this past year was one of frontiers for me:
Preaching in all kinds of churches.
Invitations to make presentations on parental grief for nursing students and on discernment for pastors.
A graduation speech for brand-new spiritual directors and their guests.
A call to ministry.
All pretty much frontiers for me.
And all leading me to my word for 2012:
It's not nearly as sexy a word as frontier.
At first I toyed with some words that promised more drama. Words like generosity and magnanimity and creativity. And maybe 2013 will be the year for one of them. But even to wander in their vicinity requires a foundational year in patience.
Patience with my body, with its slow processes of healing ~ physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ~ and the reality that in some ways it will never be close to what it was six weeks ago.
Patience with the reality of my work and the hours of driving it requires ~ hours that can be used for listening to books and presentations and for prayer, if I am gentle with myself rather than hurried and irritated and frustrated.
Patience with my new congregation, which as a whole has an experience of church and a view of the world much different from mine ~ working on what I have to learn rather than on what I have to teach.
Patience with technology ~ figuring out what will really work for me and making the effort to learn it. This includes things like laptops and ipads and kindles and cameras and all the associated software.
Patience with the people I love and like best ~ my affection for them does not make them me, or mind-readers of me.
Patience with how long things take ~ I am not required to do five things at once at breakneck speed.
Patience with grief, and with how it changes.
It seems that there is rather a lot to patience.
Now that I think of it, it might be way too big a project for me.
Or it might be a synonym for gratitude.
It might be a frontier all of its own.
Image: Presque Isle (PA), 2011