Before we get too deep into this piece, please note that the asterisks (*) indicate footnotes. These footnotes are – in true academic style – for definitions or additional context that couldn’t quite fit neatly in the text.
One of the rules of the desert, as explained by Rev. Dr. Richard LeSueur, during his Saturday morning keynote address at Synod*:
Take only what you can carry.
Despite the perceived closeness provided by social media he notes that, living in Jerusalem, the physical distance carries its own emotional toll. As the Western Church is forced to evolve and adapt to sustain itself, and in the face of uncertainty in a world of ceaseless violence, we’re called to reflect on where we as Christians are going, and how much work will need to be done before we are truly where we should be.
We’re called to do the work to ensure that the crimes against humanity don’t continue to persist, that we restore the land and give refuge to its protectors, that we express ourselves faithfully and honestly about our role in this mission. We take only what we can carry in this mission; suitcases stuffed to the seams with faith, with no room for complacency. This seems to work in the desert; knowing that your time will be spent pushing your body physically and mentally, you have to do the work to lighten the load on your mind and on your body. The extra pair of socks that you might pack in your carry-on luggage just in case something happens seems like a convenient and insignificant addition, but that extra weight may hold you back when you really want to push forward.
What do you carry with you, that could be left behind?
If there was a scale available to weigh the emotional toll on me, we’d be in trouble. I know that a lot of my stress is stored in my shoulders, my lower back, and my hips. I’ve been working on teaching my body to move differently, to hold onto less in the seams between her tense joints. I’m learning how to hold her gently, with the patience and care she had never been given. I am becoming aware of how much she carries and I’m working on lessening her load. She has carried me for a long time, and soon I’ll be able to carry her through life’s waves, too.
I’m choosing not to carry pain with me this week, so I can save some extra space for love. It will be a struggle, but I’ll make every effort to leave that baggage at the gate where it belongs.
* For the non-churchgoers reading this, Synod is an annual general meeting, with a dollop of worship to counterbalance the bureaucratic, procedural bits (but also, because prayer might be less challenging). This was the 137th annual Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa.
** If you want to hear the entire keynote address, you can listen to Part 1 and Part 2 on SoundCloud.