I came back from a summer away, where I had experiences that rejuvenated and refreshed me. I expected to return to my convent and ministry ready to reengage in the same, because my assignment wasn’t changing. But as I tried to step back into old routines, I found that something had changed. Me! I couldn’t resume old attitudes and patterns of behavior. I could feel myself turning within, positioning myself for newness. I was no stranger to big changes and the personal transitions involved, but they were often brought on by external change in my life. Now, though, everything was the same at surface level, and I found it hard to reconcile my need for something new with the old that I was surrounded by. Then I had a breakthrough; I could change me! I could bring a new energy to my life. This began a period of reflection and searching, where I clarified who I am and what is important to me.
As I pondered how I would enter into the Advent season, it struck me that I was already living Advent spirituality. I had begun the ministry year in September in a spirit of waiting, hoping for better and asking God to reveal it to me. I ended up finding it within myself, in my sisters, and in what I had committed to. “Choosing again what I chose before,” as poet Wendall Berry wrote, but doing it with more personal investment because I had put words to my vision. It also brought hope that there would be other avenues for me, other opportunities to live the dream God had put in my heart. The insights and inspirations from this time were presents, the embodiment of what I was searching for. It occurred to me that this is the spirit of Christmas, of rejoicing in gifts received.
I did learn from this Advent season and it helps me. Listening to Scripture readings at daily Mass and reading Advent reflections reminded me that it is a time of waiting with joyful expectation. There was hope in the self-reflection involved in asking the questions, but there were other emotions, too. I was afraid at the beginning that I would find out that I didn’t want what I had committed to. The thing about discernment is when you start asking questions, you need to ask all of them, and the prospect of discovering that I didn’t want to be a Felician Sister or an archivist made me nervous. I already made promises! Ultimately, not the case…
What else did I learn from observing Advent? Like or different from my experience of waiting?