I have started thinking about retirement, and I know myself well enough to know that even though I will stop going to an office every day, I will need to do something, because I am not good at being idle.
I have been asking in prayer what God wants me to do in the next chapter of my life and have made lists of possible ways to fill my retirement—from dog walker to non-profit consultant.
Some days, I long to do something that requires very little thought or preparation, and other days, I feel a responsibility to pay forward what I have learned from my work.
“What is uniquely yours?” my spiritual director asked when I raised the subject of my next chapter. She believes I have a responsibility to pass on what God has given me, a message I have heard from her before and others throughout my life.
I have had so many “unique” experiences—from living in l’Arche and serving as a Mennonite volunteer to leading a lay mission program that took me to different parts of the world. I have been blessed!
Since that conversation with my spiritual director, I have tried to be more attentive to what might be uniquely mine and how God may be inviting me to share what I have been given.
Each fall, I co-facilitate a day of reflection for our local Jesuit Volunteers, a group of post-college young adults who are dedicating a year to service in Detroit. My talk is on the spirituality of community, and I base most of my talk on my experiences in l’Arche.
I talk about my failures in community living and how my unrealistic expectations got in the way of being a good community member.
Lots of people fail at living in Christian community, so that is not unique to me, but being willing and able to talk publicly about my failure might put me in a more rarified group.
Prayer is another part of that talk, and I share some practical tips about theological reflection and Lectio Divina—also not uniquely mine, but perhaps my take on prayer is unique to me.
Then, two weeks ago at my book group, the topic of spirits came up. We were discussing The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, the story of an African American family living in Detroit. One of the sons in the story encounters a haint, a spirit that is part of some Southern traditions, which led to the discussion of spirits and our experiences of the supernatural.
I shared one of my mystical experiences, something I rarely do, because I have spent my life trying to seem normal, typical, ordinary—and having mystical experiences is anything but normal, typical or ordinary.
It was an aha moment—my mystical visions are unique to me. Throughout my life, God has given me intense prayer experiences and visions that have helped me, but which I have rarely shared with others. Is that my next chapter?