...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Monday, March 9, 2009

Arabian Sojourn (Galatians 1:11-24)

I'm in the middle of finding a new spiritual director. While I have heard that spiritual direction can take place long distance via phone conversations, I don't think that would work for me. So with my former director moving far away, I am going to take some time in finding a new one.

The thought of Paul in Arabia has come to mind. I'm living some questions that perhaps I've avoided. It's too easy to construe Paul's hermit sojourn as a rugged, individualistic American would. But I have to think that the call he received to go among the Gentiles with the Jesus Gospel required a rethinking of his life and a remaking of his person and this could only begin with a profound self emptying in the desert.

Paul's being a super-achiever is among the several continuities between his life in Judaism and being an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul is also zealous, whether as a Pharisee- teacher- persecutor, or as a Christ-believer and persecuted apostle. My interpretation- Paul apparently still kept and honored the Torah for Jews like himself as well for Christ believers who were born into Judaism, such as Timothy. The conflicts came when he didn't require Gentile believers to observe Torah.

So what's the big difference in Paul the person? It's answered, in part, by his going to Arabia. For three years. There was safety from the threats of the extreme wing of Judaism that he once represented, as well as protection from Roman authorities. The implication of the text is that Paul went away immediately to seek God. And I like the fact that the question is left to our imagination.

To seek God only is our calling, because we cannot offer what we do not have. So it is with finding a new spiritual director. If I don't learn something in my own search, how can I hope to understand what that's like? If I'm so unfamiliar with the energy, pain and struggle to find genuine Christian community, how in the world can I companion another on a similar journey?

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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