Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Positive Side of Loss

I recently went home to MO to visit my mom. During the trip, I listened to Robert Wick's Riding the Dragon. The book is full of great wisdom. One thing he talked about was how we look at loss and change.

Wicks was telling the story of members of a L'Arch community, a community for the mentally challenged. The founder, Jean Vanier, asked the members what the most challenging aspect of being in the community was for them. One member commented on the sense of deep loss. She went on to say that they get to know each other and become a family, but over time members of the group, either the employees or the residents, leave. Vanier acknowledged that as being a difficult part of living in community, but then challenged them to look at it in a different light.

Those who were leaving, he said, were leaving as new people, having been formed and transformed by their involvement with the other members in the community. In a sense, those who were staying were forming each other. Those who were leaving were able to take all that they had learned from the others and use it in their new ministries and environments.

I've heard that same philosophy spoken here as women leave the community. Just because a woman comes to the monastery does not mean she is stuck here. It's a discernment process. It took me 7 years before making perpetual vows. Over time, I've seen people come and go. These women were open to following God, gave monastic life a try, and then realized it wasn't the right fit. It wasn't where God was calling them to make a lifetime commitment, but it was where they felt called temporarily. It was where they received formation, grew in their spiritual journey, remained open to God's call, heard God calling them to something else, and then felt free enough to leave.

I believe leaving is difficult for those who are leaving as well as for those who are being left. It shows that we cannot hold on to anything too tightly. We can, however, be grateful for the time that we have with each other, acknowledge what we have gained in the process, and then use that knowledge in other areas, with other people.

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