I ate lunch outside recently, during an unusual cool spell in the midst of August. The back porch of the restaurant overlooked a huge green field. I watched two children run back and forth across the green, laughing and running. And I wanted to run, too. I mentioned this during the conversation with my lunch company, who either didn't hear it or didn't care to respond. But the words of the spell seeped in, and I told myself that running barefooted across grass at a restaurant was silly, so I sat and ate, but the sandwich didn't taste as good and I felt less-than.
Because part of me kept looking at the grass, part of me wanted to run wild. But the spell of that company and that moment wouldn't let me run wild.
We've heard the words of the spell, the one that says we ourselves aren't enough, that the space within us that aches and yearns must be filled by something outside of us, by someone who is other, by something somewhere that isn't dwelling within our very own souls. The words that tell us what brings us joy isn't proper or good, that the voice within us is wrong. So we begin the search, and we hear the incantation grow louder until we find that thing, that person, that other that looks magical and wonderful and we grasp it to ourselves, thinking, "Yes, now this will make me whole." We begin to listen to others who we think know better than us, and we edit and alter and contain.
This job will make my fears go away. This guy will validate me. She will be the one. Even this house or this car or this particular degree will end the quest, the search. If only I had (fill in the blank), then I'll be happy. If I act just this way, then I'll be complete. Then I'll be enough.
That's the spell, after all. The spell that we hear from our culture, from the wounds of our childhood and our adulthood, even the spell that we hear from our very own faith traditions - that somehow, we are not enough. The spell that says we must attach to this identity or this persona, because that is who we are. Or the spell that says we are always defined by our successes or even our deep wounds, because that is who we are. This is the spell against God, actually, that keeps pulling us back into our small selves, our selves crammed into lines that are fine on a resume, but quite limiting when they are written on our souls.
Because who we are, truly, is our identity with God.
Who is that? you may ask. Well, that is the identity that is in our deep consciousness, that identity that is often buried under the dozens, even hundreds, of small selves we have accumulated through our lives. That God-consciousness that existed when we were knit together before the voices of the world got into our heads and hearts and told us otherwise. Richard Rohr says our holy identity is the one we must crawl our way back to, meaning getting back there and breaking the spell isn't something done with arrogance or haughtiness or with head held high. Breaking the spell is a process of recovering our laughter and our tears, renewing the part of our soul that remembers standing barefooted in mud and connecting, and sitting with our naked souls and slowly realizing we like the company. It is the moment where when someone asks you who you are, you know the only response is your name and your very presence, because who you are is enough.
A few days later, I was the speaker at a gathering of women at a small church in the Louisiana country-side. After the gathering, after the goodbyes and thank yous, and after the usual mid-day rain, after everyone but me and the sexton were gone, I looked at the wide expanse of the church grounds. A century ago, the rectory and its gardens stood there. But after a fire, the grass had grown over the scars and a beautiful green field lay in front of me.
And God said, "Run!"
Just like that, I dropped all I held, kicked off my shoes, and ran barefooted across the grass.
And only heard God cheering.