Becoming who you are

Potter's hands

The Potter’s hands

‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. The privilege of a life time is being who you are.’ ee cummings

Being and becoming. Key words that have been rattling around my head of late. We describe ourselves as human beings, and yet there is a deep sense in which we could be called human becomings. As Dr David G Benner, in his blog post The Journey of Human becoming and develops further in his book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation, 

                 ‘Being human is a journey of becoming’ 

That journey is one that is life long, but it not simply a progression in a linear fashion through time. As Dr Benner expresses it- ‘time is necessary, but not sufficient’. He goes on to say ‘The Spirit of God- the source of all generativity, all creativity, and all life- invites us to participate in the grand adventure of becoming. Openness to becoming, is openness to God.’

Henri Nouen explores similar themes of discovery in his book Life of  the Beloved– a journey of knowing ourselves loved in every cell of our being. Becoming the Beloved.

My own particular journey of becoming has in recent years, been that of a journey towards priesthood. One week today, I will go into a time of retreat and guided reflection in preparation for being ordained as a priest on Saturday 29th June. In Rounding the Last Bend, and Stepping Stones, I reflected this time last year, on the final stages of ordination training and the journey towards being ordained deacon. One year on, and I now approach the moment of becoming who I believe God is calling me to be. Becoming who he has been fashioning me into over the course of my life time.

Although it feels like there will be a deep sense of completion, it is not a question of arriving. I am still on this ‘grand adventure of becoming’ that is God’s constant invitation to me.

The picture of the chalice being shaped, is the front of my ember card. I chose it because it sang to me of the need to be pliable in the hands of the creative Potter who is fashioning me. To let him use all the circumstances of my life, past and present to form me as he sees fit. This particular lump of clay has wrestled and fought those hands, vigorously resisting this call to priesthood. (You can read more on this struggle in Where is your Home?)  Yet all along he has simply been calling me to be me. Shaping me into who I am. Borrowing an alternative analogy I used in an earlier post, Born to Fly and related to the name of this blog, I was born to fly as a feather on God’s breath. No more. No less.

I started with a quote from ee cummings, a particularly favourite poet of mine. I’ll close with another..

may i be i, is the only prayer- not may i be great or good, or beautiful or wise or strong.” 

May I be I . Amen and amen. May I have courage, grace, openness and trust to become. To go on being and becoming.

If you can add your prayers to mine for this significant moment of transition, it would mean a great deal to me and you have my heartfelt thanks.

Stepping Stones

I was given this beautiful picture today, by a friend of mine. He is a fellow ordinand, and it is the picture on his Ember Card (cards sent out by people about to be ordained, asking for prayer for themselves, their families, their new parishes and  incumbent)

It struck a deep chord with me, and I have sat with it for some time, letting it speak to me. It is highly symbolic of just where I am, at the moment. I can see the other side of the river from here.  The far bank is suddenly, very close. There are still some ‘stepping stones’ to get there, of course.. and some of them have the potential of being quite wobbly. Like saying goodbyes to those I have lived with, learned alongside, laughed and cried with, in all the twists and turns of this crazy journey towards ordination.  I expect there maybe more wobbly ones too, and perhaps ones that catch me by surprise.

It has been a strange week in the Lectionary calendar. Several people have remarked to me how we have heard the same passage 4 or 5 times over the last few days. Very significant words too.

“You did not choose me, I have chosen you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15:16 

They are especially significant, as we see them in chapel, two or three three times a day. Inscribed on the College icon, on the back wall of the chapel, the message of those words becomes almost a subliminal reminder, etching themselves in a deep place within. Since the icon was commissioned by the Common Room and written by Marianna Fortounatto in 1981, it will have been imprinted on many hearts through the years, in the ‘generations’ of students since then.

Rowan Williams, in his book, “The Dwelling of Light: Praying with Icons of Christ” (Canterbury Press, 2003) bases his chapter on the Pantocrator on the Westcott icon, writing, “the icon of the Pantocrator in the chapel of Westcott House, Cambridge, was and is for me and many others a profoundly significant image.” Of its meaning he writes,

“The point is simple: face to face with Jesus, there and only there, do we find who we are. We have been created to mirror his life, the eternal life of the one turned always toward the overflowing love of the Father; but our human existence constantly turns away. When we look at Jesus, we see in some measure what he sees, and are drawn to where his eyes lead us… we look at him looking at us, and try to understand that as he looks at us he looks at the Father. In other words, when he looks at us, he sees the love that is his own source and life, despite all we have done to obscure it in ourselves. When we look at him looking at us, we see both what we were made to be, bearers of the divine image and likeness, and what we have made of ourselves.”

If I hear the same passage four or five times in almost as many days, it feels like God is underlining something in red.. “This crazy journey was my idea.. and it is me who is sending you out from this place to go and bear fruit that will last” , perhaps?

Just as well He is going with us too.. ( I seem to remember Moses saying something similar.. ” If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” Exodus 33:15 NIV) Amen, Moses.

This is my ember card. The images I have used are taken from my stoles.

I will, God willing, be ordained as a deacon on the morning of July 1st 2012 . As I mentioned in my last post, all prayer much appreciated for those steps across the river. There is another whole journey, of course, that begins on the far bank.