Where I'm Supposed to be
The more I get to know this Parish Life Cycle, the more I realize it’s just a set of words attached to the natural progression that my faith journey has already been taking for years. Applying the cycle to my life, I see there’s really nothing new here. However, it has been a great model to give shape to what I’d failed previously to realize was indeed a cycle. I think this model can help all of us visualize our own journey or maybe even to explain it.
The cycle we typically seem to be caught in has us peddling faster and harder, only to leave us frustrated, overworked, and exhausted like a hamster on a wheel. But I have found this cycle, instead of being a life-draining cycle, is a life-giving cycle! This cycle takes you to far off places where you feel rested, unburdened, free, and joyful.
I don’t even remember the first time I started searching for more; seems like I’ve been doing it all my life; I have some very distinct memories from as early as adolescence. And, of course, the promise always rang true, “seek and you will find.” So, my life has been dotted with some very real, very powerful, encounters with Jesus. Some of them marked incredible turning points in my life, some more subtle, but, each encounter always left me changed--converted by His unbelievable intuition. He knows me, He “gets” me like no one else does . With each encounter, our relationship grows more intimate and more present in my regular day to day life. And ever since I tasted that kind of intimacy and began to feel the kind of joy that comes with it, what I’ve wanted—more than anything else in the world—is for all the people I love to know it & to have it, too. So, I pray that my joy is a reflection of Jesus to the people I know; that, somehow, something I say or do might send them a little into their own relationship with Jesus. I see it as my mission.
Recently, for months, I had been feeling quite “stuck” in my prayer life. I was frustrated and disappointed during and after prayer, not feeling like I was “encountering” Jesus. I tried new ways to pray, arranged a new space, got a new journal, read a few books; I whined about it to my spiritual director…then, a couple of months ago, I just “accepted” where I was, and BAM! I encountered Jesus! And with it, I received a whole new way to look at it! (conversion). Seeing this cycle for the first time just a few weeks ago, I realized that all that time when I was struggling, I was just back at the searching point, searching for something more. What a relief. Now, I’ll recognize it next time it comes (growth)!
And, of course, it’s never finished. I’ve found that every encounter is deeper than the one before, every conversion, sweeter; and, the more intimate the relationship grows, the more intimate I want it—even need it—to be! So again, and again, I search for ways to encounter Jesus on new levels; I ache for it. His peace makes me want more of His peace; His love makes me want more of His love; His joy, more of His joy. And the more I get, the more I want it for everyone!
There have been times in my life when I’ve crept very, very slowly through these stages, spending months, even years, in one stage. I know now, that doesn’t matter at all. There have been other times, more recent, that I can go through almost all of these stages in a single hour of adoration. I’ve come to realize that no matter where I am in this cycle, it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.