Our journey is a dance between freedom and what encloses us. When we are active participants on our spiritual journey we assume responsibility for being willing to be transformed and free to grow into our magnificence. Paul offers tools for this journey in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians. How will you use those tools?
What is an enclosure? Enclosures are self-fulfilling actions and beliefs that keep you from being who you are meant to be. When we allow ourselves to be confined by unacceptable expectations and boundaries drawn by others – such as family, culture, religion and politics – we accept an enclosure, and so define a limited us.
When hiding behind your own particular enclosure you choose to live with a cramped heart, a squelched voice, and often, a lack of compassion for yourself–and others. While the choice to be enclosed can happen subtly over time, enclosure is no small thing. Your life is at stake! Enclosures lock you away from the fullness of joy intended for you by the Holy, and deprive the world of the gifts that only you can give–shielding you from the people who most need your influence.
The good news is this–since we choose our way into an enclosure, we can choose to break out. Life presents us with such invitations each day.
In a workshop I led on the pathways to becoming enlivened one of the participants raised her hand towards the end of the day and said to the group, “I’ve had an unexpected epiphany that I’d like to share.” Martha said, “I’ve spent years engaged in contemplative prayer practices. They’ve been a gift to me. But today I’ve felt like a bird breaking out of my shell learning to sing for the first time.” The other participants leaned in listening to someone who was clearly not used to speaking in public.
Martha went on to talk about her practices saying, “I’ve always listened for the voice of the Holy somewhere out there” as she gestured with her arms to the space around her. “I’d never imagined what I was missing is the Holy in here” pointing to herself. Smiling broadly she added, “I feel as though I’m beginning to learn a new song. The notes and the lyrics have always been there but I’ve never paid them any attention.”
Our own song, once recovered in us, is a gift of freedom opening a pathway to a more richly layered life. In the months that followed I heard from Martha who kept testing her own newly reclaimed voice. She wrote saying, “I used to believe that my voice was insignificant and that it would be a selfish thing to pay attention to it. This was normal for me. As I trust my voice I’m discovering that I listen to the voices of others with new ears. And I can discern which voices to ignore. My life has been like breaking out of a thousand egg shells since that moment of epiphany with you.”
“I’ve begun to remember the voices from my childhood” said Martha. “Voices of those who loved me but who repeatedly asked me ‘Who do you think you are?’ or ‘Why do you think such thoughts?’ I’m realizing that the voice I’m appreciating as an adult is not a new voice. It’s my voice unearthed after years of storage.” The truth being revealed was the inverse of those questions that had resulted in putting her voice into a holding pen for decades.
We serve no one’s happiness or life by trying to fix or mend. Detaching from those whose voices insist we fix or mend their lives is an exercise in affirming the humanity of all and the Holy present in each person. Each of us can only save the life we are responsible for–our own. By detaching emotionally and spiritually we say to another person “I love you; I want your happiness; I will be actively hoping for you to recover and claim your own voice and passion. Someday I pray we will celebrate our voices finding a new harmony.”
As Martha’s enclosures opened, she began to listen and engage with other people in a new way, unafraid of what their voices might reveal. On another occasion Martha wrote to say, “For the first time I’m appreciating the Universe and the Holy in the voice of all kinds of people. My every encounter seems different. I’m appreciative, I’m learning and I’m filled with anticipation about what I will hear.”
Paul’s Damascus experience was an opening of an enclosure. His own life and experience of the Holy was experienced through new lenses because he chose to break out of his particular enclosure. Is this why he writes with such fervent, urgent passion about being “called to freedom”? Is this why he offers the “fruit of the Spirit” as guideposts for the journey?
Like my friend Martha your life and mine presents us with invitations each day to live into the freedom that the spiritual quest invites. A freedom to be fully alive, fully human. Is this part of your spiritual positioning system for the journey?