ON SABBATICAL (part one)

by ANTON FLORES-MAISONET

When I commenced my nine-month sabbatical I envisioned a time marked by moments of recreation, resting, and writing. While my expectations were not totally inaccurate, I am still reconciling what happened as I “let go and let God.”

THE DANCE OF LETTING GO

"Dancing" at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit
“Dancing” at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit

Letting go and getting off even the ministry rat race was not always easy. There were moments I felt compelled to address the ceaseless urgency of injustice. There were times when I unhealthily craved the spotlight or recognition. But, thankfully, there were many times when I resisted a compulsion to control [the work of God by the people of God].  In letting go I learned more about myself and learned to trust God and my co-laborers more.

Sabbatical was a dance between trials and trusting, identity and identification, control and conversion. Life, and particularly its crises, does not take a breather and the crescendos of life’s symphony can create a cacophony of even our most beautifully choreographed moves.  But this “stay”battical, with all of its beauty and missteps, reaffirmed for me the centrality of resting with God in stillness and silence so that we may faithfully dance together even in the cacophony of life.

HIGHLIGHTS

My prayer altar
My prayer altar

These nine months, from Thanksgiving 2012 to Labor Day 2013, were filled with highlights. My prayer life has never been more consistent or intimate. I could boast of a more consistent prayer life. My readings during this time reveal a concentrated focus on the contemplative and mystical elements of faith. And my weight and wardrobe attest to a newfound passion for running that will peak this Thanksgiving when I run my first half-marathon (13.1 miles)!

Running in Chicago
Running in Chicago

But rather than boast in these things I want to boast, as Jeremiah does, on having a deeper awareness of a God who finds delight in exercising justice, steadfast love, and righteousness right here on earth. (Jeremiah 9:23,24)  Oh, I’ll boast about this!

DARKNESS

Walking in the dark in Guatemala

This nine-month journey included many moments of darkness, emptiness, and stillness. Even at the commencement of my sabbatical, Norma, Arturo’s life mate and our dear sister in Christ, was hospitalized for an entire month, including a lengthy stay in the intensive care unit. All those dark days revealed my ignorance of the human body and health and my impotence to do anything but be present and pray. Thanks be to God, my time was available to fully accompany Norma and Arturo during these difficult moments. For in that darkness God’s transcendent light shone brightly.

Perhaps the most vivid display of Light piercing darkness was when Norma, frail-bodied and bed-ridden, was asleep in her hospital bed; Arturo gently brushed her hair with one hand while the other hand-held an electronic device to her ear and softly played a melodious tune with Spanish lyrics proclaiming, “Anoint me, anoint me, so I may see what You’re doing in me.

In part two, I will journey into a cave of emptiness and stillness.

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