Re/VIEW: Robert Thurman
Thurman’s odyssey is remarkable and ongoing.
A colleague asked if I watched TEDx talks, to which I replied that I hadn’t taken the time to yet. To speed up the process she emailed a link to one, encouraging me to watch because it was about purpose. Since I happened to be writing a blog post about purpose and needed some inspiration, I obliged and listened as sociologist Bertice Berry, PhD declared that “When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.”
But like many of my peers I was busy tending to student loan debt, rent, and other bills I had to pay in order to survive. I wasn’t sure what my purpose was, and couldn’t wrap my mind around actually walking said purpose out when life felt too pressing to actually feel myself breathe.
We’re often reminded to stop and smell the roses. Let’s elaborate on the meaning: the expression is more than just an appreciation for what’s in front of us in the moment. It’s also recognizing that we ourselves are in the moment. That our bodies ... the hands that grasp for substance in the dark nights of our unrest; the face we often forget to feel when the world around us seems like it’s spiraling out of control; the lungs that hold the collective grief we fortify by contrived differences ... that all this is real. This frame of flesh and blood carries our joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, and deep-seated questions about meaning and our belonging in the world.
Our bodies tell us many stories if we’re willing to rest awhile and listen. It’s not always easy to listen to the way our life is speaking when we aren’t sure how to tune in, or what to actually listen for.
“Many are called but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14 Perhaps this may have more to do with the fact that we are too busy—and unpracticed in listening—to pay the call any mind, or understand it’s beckoning.
I want the opposite. So I decided to do what women and men have been doing for centuries: go into the desert parts of my life story and seek direction from someone who was well-traveled in hearing the still, small voice in the wind.
Around the third century CE, early hermits and monks settled in the physical desert of North Africa where people—wrestling with the same human paradoxes we do today—would eventually seek them out (Blythe, 2018). Out of this tradition grew a ministry of spiritual accompaniment where seekers could rest awhile and learn to listen to the voice of the Divine that they too often forget is ever-present in their lives.
Such ministers who offer their presence and companionship for the journey go by many names; presently they are most well-known as “Spiritual Directors.”
It’s not an easy task to walk toward a lamppost in the swamplands of our in-between spaces. However, it is not a road we have to travel alone. Spiritual Direction offers the opportunity to become quiet enough to hear the desires of our hearts and, more importantly, God’s invitation to choose to say “yes.”
Walking with purpose towards the high calling is more about the remembrance of our interconnectedness, the deep listening that welcomes the fullness of who we are … so that we never have to walk alone.
Blythe, Teresa. (2018). Spiritual Direction 101: the Basics of Spiritual Guidance. Berkeley, California: Apocryphile press.
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