Now I emerge, bedraggled, from the other side. It was an endurance test. I did survive. It's no wonder I'm exhausted now, and, in my exhausted state, ambivalent about the personal cost.
So I have to come back to the question of faithfulness. If I've been truly faithful, I shouldn't worry about the cost. But my worrying about the cost is my way of testing my leading, now in retrospect. Was I faithful? Was what I did done in faithfulness?
What I can see is this: I survived; the things that needed to get done got done pretty well, and so I was effective enough. (One big project remains -- the upcoming conference -- and so this is not yet a complete tally.)
But was I faithful?
Even just yesterday, I would have expressed some doubt. You can see some of that doubt seeping through in my most recent postings.
But today I begin to see things differently.
Certainly I have tried to be faithful.
But what is true faithfulness? (Is trying enough?)
The doubts I've had really arise because my life is not really moving in the direction I would wish, but today I begin to wonder whether my own plan is a very good one after all. Which is the voice of God: is it expressed through the people and events that materialize in my life every day, or is it expressed through my unhappiness when those requests or events bring me anxiety or pain or fatigue?
Is my true destiny what actually happens in my life, and are the "could have beens" just fantasies? Or does being faithful require my being more assertive than I yet have been at not letting life force me in a direction too very different from the one I would like my life to take?
Is God speaking through the actualities I contend with, or the potentialities I feel stirring in my soul? (Or some mixture of the two -- but if so, which dimensions of each, then?)
Or another way of thinking about faithfulness: in this earlier posting, I wondered how much one's level of awareness and state of being matters when upholding prior commitments. Here's what I wrote then:
If I’ve set things up well in my life, then I can trust that the flow of my work will unfold in a beneficial way, for me and for those whose lives are affected by my work.
Does my attitude or state of being at every moment matter? If at times I am stressed, anxious, tired, or hurried as I do my work, is my accomplishment therefore diminished? Or is it okay that my state of being isn’t always calm, collected, and centered?
Quakers are rightfully dubious about ritual, worried that when certain patterns of behavior become habitual, our participating in them can become rote and mechanical. Over time, such rituals can lose their meaning. Or at least our sense of their meaning can fade.
And so my follow-up question here is: is the loss of a sense of meaning also a loss of faithfulness? (At the moment I think not. I definitely have had moments of losing that sense, but still think it was right for me to follow through -- in faith! Or am I just rationalizing?)
In asking these pointed and difficult questions, I overemphasize what has been hard for me lately. It is important for me to point out that underneath all of this is a sense that my life is on the right track, and moving in an important direction.
Up close, a meaningful life has its difficult moments. My readers unfortunately see this close-up grappling with what is most difficult, without any sense of what my life looks like wholistically from the outside to put it into context.
In fact, I have trouble seeing what my life looks like wholistically from the outside!
Finally, I want to confess also to being haunted by Richard M's last question to me (that I still have not answered): what is the role of my Meeting as I discern these kinds of questions?
It is such an obvious question that I was taken by surprise by how surprised I was by his question!
I love my Meeting, and yet Richard's question revealed to me how little I have been sharing with my Meeting about what's really hard for me in life. Maybe I could ask my Meeting to help me with my discernment. Yet, how exactly would I focus my questions? What, at heart, am I trying to discern in my life?
Today I feel something new suddenly shifting and turning. I really am just emerging from a hard and demanding year. It's normal to be tired. Being tired does not necessarily mean that anything is wrong.
What if I just accept, and trust? What if I just let myself rest?
I offer more questions than answers, but these feel like good questions: questions through which I can find my way forward.