If you could do anything you wanted, without fear of failure and no need to count cost, what would you do? I hear the question asked in many ways each day and the underlying theme is important wisdom. When we honor our deepest selves, we invariably offer the best service to others.
If I could do anything, what would it be? I would lead a simple and largely contemplative life of writing. I would have deep breaths of wide open space as I drank my morning coffee. I would stretch my body, mind and soul carefully, aware of the sacred presence in and through and connecting. And then I would sit at the keyboard and with a scratch pad and arrange words into stories and verse.
As these words emerge on the page I have a chorus of nay-sayers chanting in my head.
One practical section is mindful of the implications. I need health insurance and tuition money for the kids and, more importantly, who would pay to read my thoughts? For decades now I have played with words but shared them freely, receiving my paycheck from a church that needed more administrative and programmatic prowess than my spirit could muster. For the past several years I have been untangling my time and spirit from many of the typically routine tasks of ministry and indulging in what it is that my spirit craves, solitude and word play. Thankfully these gifts have served the community, albeit in different ways. And for a time I was able to earn a living and follow the spirit call. But this is the crossroads.
The practical chorus has invited me, unsurprisingly, to pick up an old skill set, working math problems for a possible return to classroom teaching. I cannot know what doors will open and offer no predictions. I know that I have had several unsuccessful but incredibly interesting interviews. More signficantly, I have found a surprising amount of serenity working math problems in preparation for recertification. As I watch my approach to this new project, I can see that fear of failure holds me back in a number of ways. But in the safety of my own home, with no one’s watchful eye in judgment, I actually groove on the rhythm of solving math problems. Who knew?
What is apparent is that the watchful eye of judgment is an albatross in working problems and (more importantly) in following my heart. This roadblock presents an interesting paradox. While the problem is most certainly external, the solution is essentially internal. There is no disputing that judgment abounds from voices that are not simply inside my head. The waiting math exam will hold judgment, my co-workers at the church have judgment, even my family. And I have judgment, of myself and (whether or not I express it) of others. Judgment may not always be helpful or kind, but it is an inevitable byproduct of the human process of discernment. A matter of choice, however, is how I respond to judgment.
In the rare moments of my life when I have been certain of who and whose I am, I am impervious to judgment. In the moment of most profound bliss, the day of my wedding with my dear one, I was utterly heedless of the opinions of others. At one point my former-hero made a nasty comment and I remember holding the arrow and realizing that I had a choice to allow or not allow the injury. Bliss is a powerful emotion, and emboldened an experience that I never knew possible as I let the arrow pass. Now that my eyes are open, I realize a space of choice that is ours each day.
So what is it that you would do if you were not held captive by fear or judgment or perceived limitations? For this day, I choose to breathe deeply and place some words on a page. And just maybe I’ll peek at calculus problem.