“What has been on your heart this week? What are your reflections on the materials from the week? or on this evening?”
Every eye in my small group was on me, waiting for me to speak. I started talking, meandering through the last couple weeks of life, Lent, and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. I began telling the story of what God has been revealing and changing. Then, in the middle of the story, I paused, my hands open.
The story was not finished, but I was. I didn’t know what came next because, whatever it was, it hadn’t happened yet. I was in the middle of the story, and I’m still in the middle of the story.
I’m uncomfortable being in the middle. I want to know how the story unfolds, and I want to know now. When I pick up a novel I read the first chapter, then the last chapter, then the rest of the book. I can’t enjoy the story unless I know how it ends; and, even then, I am frustrated by the suspense of a winding plot. I won’t go to bed for the night until I’ve reached a comfortable pause in the story. But life doesn’t work that way.
Years ago I sat up late one night, pouring out my heart to a friend. I was in the middle of a different story then, and I desperately wanted to resolve the problems and find the end. Sometime after midnight I stopped talking, exhausted.
“Helen,” my friend said, “you didn’t get here in a day, and you’re not going to find your way out in a day. Get some sleep. Eat. Do your homework. Live life. It’s going to take a long time to work through this story.”
I’ve remembered her words many times. She was right. I could have tried to figure out that story for three weeks straight and would have gotten nowhere. I had to live the rest of the story. I had to enter the twists and turns and suspense. I had to go to bed every night for years without knowing the end.
Now I am in another middle: the middle of Lent, the middle of the Spiritual Exercises, the middle of major decisions. As much as I would like to finish telling the story, I can’t. I just have to live it.