Go In, Go Out

The following reflection comes from my book, The Sun and Moon Over Assisi. Before last week as I was working on an updated, revised edition of the book which will soon be published by Tau Publishers, I had not read it since I wrote it in 1999. At the end of the essay, I ask myself more than a dozen questions that all sought a “yes” answer. I struck out on all the questions. More than fifteen years later, I may, on a good day, give a positive answer to perhaps three, maybe four, of the questions. Progress along the spiritual road is slower than a jammed LA freeway.

I’m torn. Discordant currents within me pull me in many different direc­tions. This hardly makes me unique. Humans are steeped in complexity, loaded with strengths and weaknesses, gifted with vast potential and cursed with severe limitations. Tension is a natural part of life. I want to write books, which is an internal, solitary act of contemplation, and I also want to make films, which is an external, communal form of action. Earlier in these pages I said I felt a desire to work in a soup kitchen, a desire which stands in opposition to another desire I have, to be a hermit devoted to prayer. When I’m reading a book on spirituality or theology, I feel as if I should be feeding the hungry. The other day I was running an errand for an elderly, feeble neighbor, and while doing so pages from unread books danced in my head. How do I find balance and harmony?

People are always talking about the importance of unity, either with­in families or communities or the workplace. Forget that stuff—how do I find unity within myself? God seems to be telling me that I need to be still. But I also feel God wants me to change, to move into a new reality of life. The call to conversion implies the continual need to grow, to change. More tension. Even a casual reading of the lives of the saints tells me I must face the darkness in order to experience the light. Christ, being fully human, also lived a life of tension and contradiction. While hang­ing and dying on the cross, Christ became the apex of contradiction: promising the fullness of life in the barrenness of a cruel death.

Saint Francis saw God in the tensions and conflicting forces within himself. He accepted his own complexity, and created something new and fresh for himself. He responded to the Christ he saw in everyone by living a life of service to others. But he also paid attention to his need for soli­tude by finding a time and place for withdrawal so he could enter fully into contemplative prayer. He went in, and he went out…living a life of prayer and service. He was able to do this because he centered his life on Christ, listening to and experiencing both the suffering Messiah and the risen Lord in his daily life. Christ himself went into the marketplace, preaching and curing the sick, and he also went into the desert, praying and seeking the will of the Father. Francis found the unity for his life by imitating the life of Christ.

Is there another way? I don’t think so…at least not for me. But I am not sure I have the courage and strength to imitate Christ. Am I able to be content with what I have? Can I rejoice in the way things are this very moment, whether good or bad? Am I capable of not acting in anger when I am wronged? Can I avoid nursing a grudge? Can I bear injuries patient­ly? Can I pray for my enemies? Am I willing to put the needs of the poor ahead of my own selfish desires? Can I treasure chastity and shun arro­gance? Am I ready to bury jealousy and envy? Can I avoid grumbling or speaking ill of others? Can I stop engaging in foolish, idle chatter and immoderate behavior? Can I rid my heart of all deceit? Can I acknowl­edge my own sinfulness? Am I willing to devote myself to prayer? Can I place my hope in God alone?

Can I say yes to any of those questions?


God give me strength to turn my “no” into “yes,” to turn my old ways into your ways. Help me say yes to you, yes to Life.




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