Monday, December 14, 2009

With Arms Wide Open

I've been feeling a little abnormally joyous the last few days. Abnormal, because the Christmas holiday is fast approaching and usually my anxiety level is through the roof and I'm never quite as far along with things as I would like to be. And this year seems especially packed with meetings and activities and events and places to go and people to see. But this year feels different. I am actually somewhat on track to be ready for the holiday. But it's not just that.

For one thing, youth group is going spectacularly well this year. I approached this year with a certain amount of trepidation. I had a very involved and dedicated group of young people graduate out of the program this past spring and I really wasn't sure what to expect of the year ahead. This was a group of young people - the core of which - that had been involved in the youth ministry program for seven years. And most of them I had been ministering to since they were tots in our Children's Liturgy of the Word program. They were not only wonderful to work with and journey with they were great peer leaders, and they served the youth group well, opening their arms in friendship and genuine care to our "newbies." The legacy they have left is quite evident in the dedication and exuberance of their younger counterparts. And I have found my own dedication to my ministry re-invigorated as a result.

There is also a person I've been acquainted with for some time, but not really KNOWN. And there were a lot of factors that contributed to a sort of barrier that existed between us. Most mine. I think distrust was a piece of it. I'm not really sure what motivated it, but it was there. Misunderstanding. Fed by the mistrust. I always assumed the worst, became defensive, guarded. And something else, kind of intangible, that was just floating out there. Maybe fear.

We took a chance. A sharing that began with an email and continued with a meal together. Barriers came down. Mistrust disappeared. Understanding came. Fear dissolved.

We metaphorically opened our arms to one another. For so long my mental (if not physical) approach to this person was to be somewhat detached, arms folded, mind closed. But we took a chance. Stepped out of comfort zones that really weren't very comfortable at all. Opened our arms. Opened our hearts. And I think we have cultivated a friendship that has been beneficial to both of us.

Wasted time is so regrettable. But even wasted time can become a part of the process, this "work in progress" that relationships - relationships that grow - become. And maybe, just maybe the bitterness of time lost is part of what can make the here and now so much sweeter when we allow ourselves to be open to possibility.

I read a meditation once by Fr. Larry Gillick of the Nouwen Society ( and he had this to say about achieving universal solidarity...

"Allowing ourselves to be loved personally lets our tightly clenched arms and hands loosen and spread, as do the branches of the Christmas tree when it is brought inside. They are readied to receive decorations and then offer their beauty to others. Solidarity with all the others of the world begins with my 'yes' and 'ours.' God is saying that God loves us with an embrace which is as big as the world. When thawed out and thought out, my 'yes' is directed to God, to my gifts, and to those 'others' whom God calls 'ours.' The journey moves from the outside in and slowly from the inside to the world-side."

Open your arms. Welcome love in.

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