Sleepless Nights, Solidarity, and Reflections from Gethsemani

I’m up this morning before sunrise not because I want to be, not because I need to be, but because I awoke in the middle of the night dreaming about work… about all the weary and weathered people at our emergency shelters last night (we were 43 people over capacity and had to open up another site), about all the people who still didn’t come in, about the people I wasn’t able to be present to, about solidarity and what it takes for change to happen. I tried over and over again to go back to sleep, to trick my mind into quieting down by counting backward from 100, by taking deep breaths, but nothing worked, so I got up.

This winter has been difficult and incredibly demanding. We’ve had 25 nights of emergency warming shelters since November with 3 to 4 sites open each night. While I have tried to practice self-care, I’ve gotten sick twice, first with the stomach flu and then with a virus that started during my silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani last weekend. The days are long. Yesterday was 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and then a restless night. Seeking to practice solidarity (even in small ways) and standing in the way of injustice sometimes means putting your body on the line… it means you bear a small part of the immense suffering and injustice in your body alongside others, because none of us can bear that weight alone. It means you take risks, you give things up, and you sometimes get sick, but what you gain is invaluable; a deep sense of meaning and camaraderie; a glimpse of the beloved community strong enough to transform yourself and maybe even a small pocket of society.

The sun is now rising and the sky is on fire—the same sky and the same fire that I saw the morning I left Gethsemani. And I pray that this holy fire will be the spark in my belly and bones that keeps me—us—going… that it will fill us with light from the inside out, sustain us on the long days where we do the messy and difficult work that needs to done, and draw us into deeper rhythms of stillness and awareness.

July 2013 029Reflections (and Prayers) from the Abbey of Gethsemani

There is a deep hunger in my bones I cannot name.
It is a hunger that fills me with sorrow and hope,
that blooms inside me, opening and sprouting like seeds,
that calls me into deeper silence, into solitude,
into feeling the immense grief and joy that this work, this life, brings.

My soul thirsts for the living God,
for the God of resurrection,
for the God of insurrection,
for the God that is as tender as she is fierce.

I long for the hot coal to touch my lips,
for the words to churn in my belly, in my mind,
to be born upon pages,
to make sense of all this madness
or at least name it.

Help me – help us – to be awake.
Awake to the cold, bare branches,
to the curve of the moon,
to the color of his eyes,
to the ache in her voice,
to this season of revelation.

Help us to be still.
Still while the work is unfinished,
while the myriad of names and needs
floods our wandering minds,
while “the whole world is secretly on fire,”
for “our labor has become more important than our silence.”

Our labor has become more important than our silence.

Meet us here,
O God of empty hands and weary feet,
O God of fallow fields and ambiguity,
O God who suffers and hungers with us,
O God who dares to hope.

Break us open and channel this fire in our belly and bones.
Teach us when our lips must speak,
when our feet must march,
when our bodies must rest.
Teach us discipline and grace,
gentleness and courage.
Without you, we are wicks yearning for flame,
seeds yearning for soil.

O God of winter and wanting,
“Teach us to care and not to care,
Teach us to sit still.”


One response to “Sleepless Nights, Solidarity, and Reflections from Gethsemani

  • Kevin Barbieux

    I have always believed in term limits for people working with the homeless. It is exhausting work, and I’ve seen many good people go “bad” because they stayed at it way past the point of burn out. To my mind, the ideal would be to have a constant recruiting of new homeless-people-care-givers. The first year would consist of training followed by 2 years of heavily involved work, and then one last year training a replacement. Four years total of service to the homeless is a good stretch of time. You can give it your all without getting burned out, or feeling overwhelmed. Maybe one day, when the recruits are plentiful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: