by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM May 7, 2023
Have you noticed how an outer event can invite reflection on inner soul work that might be needed but that we’re not quite ready to embrace and practice? Sometimes we may need to have the message stand right in front of us in our everyday living.
Recently, a new outer door was installed in the house where I live. For some time, the old door had alternated between being so loose that it would fly open even when locked or so tight that I had to throw my entire weight against it just to get out of the house. This quickly moved from being an occasional experience to a continuing source of annoyance. I became irritated at the very door itself, and it took me some time to realize there was an invitation to reflection here. When the door resisted opening: What was standing in the way of my own opening into being a more loving person? When the door flew open: What healthy boundaries must I have in place for my personal safety and emotional well-being?
I suspect I’m not alone in experiencing an even more universal wrinkle: those moments when technology seems to defy our moving forward as we need to, want to, absolutely must. For more than a few weeks, I was frustrated because of audio problems in the Zoom “Universe.” Without warning, I would suddenly become unable to hear those on the other side of Zoom or they would be unable to hear me, or both. Let’s just say my level of frustration mounted by the day as I researched numerous troubleshooting techniques to restore full sound, without success. During the many weeks before the problem was resolved, I began looking at my laptop with less than a kindly eye. I began blaming the messenger instead of noticing the invitation underneath the message. When I couldn’t hear others: Where did I miss the opportunity to fully listen to wisdom? When others couldn’t hear me: What insights or wonderings or concerns was I holding back on sharing?
In Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, Shaun McNiff echoes this practice (or perhaps I’m echoing his?) when he uses the example of a car that’s unreliable or in constant need of repair. He asks, “What lessons can the car offer about life? About how you handle stress? About what you do to yourself when faced with disappointments? Can the disturbing thing be the messenger that suggests another way of living?”
Can the disturbing thing be the messenger? Can the disturbing thing be the messenger that suggests another, more loving response? I’m tickled by how that thought turns frustration on its head. Such a graced line of reflection summons us to live with deeper awareness of the flow of life around us and within us. It underscores the Ignatian practice of finding God in all things, not just the pleasant and joy-filled and welcome parts of life, but also the annoying and disturbing elements. Wisdom tells us that everything can be a messenger, as Jaladdin Rumi reveals in “The Guest House”:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
May we be faithful to the deep inner soul work of welcoming these guides. May we learn to recognize the messengers who can point us towards new ways of living, being, noticing, paying attention. Yes, may it be so!
Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Recall a recent experience that surfaced feelings of annoyance, frustration, or disturbance.
What might that experience have revealed to you?
Ask to live with a deepening awareness of life’s unfolding messages.
Thank the Holy One for the gift of being human.
Featured Image: Lukasz Maznica, Unsplash
May 8 -15:
Please hold in your prayer all who will be part of a directed retreat at the Sisters of St. Joseph Spirituality Center in Ocean Grove, NJ. I will be one of the guest directors for this retreat. Thank you!
Happy Mother’s Day! Blessings to all who partner with the Holy in the welcoming of new life, to all who give their lives over to nurturing, guiding, and protecting life in any way.
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4 thoughts on “Inviting Them All In”
Chris, your reflections truly speak to my heart/soul! Some more than others. I love how an annoyance can be transformed when taking the time to reflect. I have to admit that I was concerned when you through your entire body weight against the door. I have one like that a work, but I did learn how to open it when stuck. Truly a metaphor for life.
Thank you very much for your time and wisdom.
Continued blessings on you no matter what door you open, Chris.
I have to say I’m not very good at reading ‘life’s unfolding messages’, but you have inspired me to try a bit harder! Thank you.
Chris, this is spot on and so beautifully expressed. The Guest House is my favorite poem.
My mother lived to be 100 years old. Hopefully I will have many more years ahead of me because this extremely wise reflection will take many more years for me to embrace it and live with in the everydayness of technology, and frustrations of “little but vexacious crosses”