Reflection with Joyce Rupp – October 2019
When my mother was in her early eighties she would often answer the question “How are you?” with a smiling response: “I’m going with the flow.” This attitude allowed her to maintain inner peacefulness a good portion of her aging years. A number of situations recently led me to decide the word “adjust” suited my approach to how things moved along. On the days when I remembered to “adjust,“ everything looked a lot better.
Not that plans and situations went badly—they just didn’t go the way I expected them to go. Preparations were constantly interrupted and took more time than anticipated; onsite IT persons (information technologists) meant to assist me with digital devices and video screens were not as knowledgeable as I assumed they would be; vacation days differed from forecasted sunshine to rain and foggy gloom; room changes and unexpected road closures, all this and more could have left me in the throes of anxiety and irritation. My mother’s “go with the flow,” and the simple word “adjust,” continually flew into my mind on the wings of the Spirit and kept the turbulent changes from upending my boat of life.
Now that the season of autumn has arrived in Iowa, I can easily identify with the trees’ experience of leaf-loss. With autumn’s cooling air taking over summer’s warmth and the trees gradually shedding their vibrant green, I can almost see the word “adjust” written on the branches. Each autumn I regain courage to let go of summer and accept its departure by returning to Macrina Wiederkehr’s “The Sacrament of Letting Go” in Seasons of Your Heart. In this exquisite piece, she describes a tree being emptied of its foliage and b:
And then, /the sacrament of waiting began.
The sunrise and sunset watched with tenderness.
Clothing her with silhouettes / they kept her hope alive.
They helped her understand that
her vulnerability / her dependence and need
her emptiness / her readiness to receive
were giving her a new kind of beauty.
Every morning and every evening / they stood in silence
and celebrated together / the sacrament of waiting.
Daniel O’Leary expresses this process with a different metaphor in his profound book, Dancing to My Death. He writes, “…that we grow by subtraction is a hard lesson to learn.” Thus it is that spring and summer include months of “addition” filled with vitality and enrichment, while autumn and winter contain subtraction, the “hard lesson” of releasing what we hold dear, the fallow time that bolsters our ability to grow—much like winter strengthens the seeds hidden in the soil. Whether we live in a climate where the seasons continually keep the land filled with green or we find ourselves in the emptiness of autumn and winter, our lives evolve in such a way that some releasing is required. When this occurs, we can choose to “go with the flow,” adjust our expectations and find ourselves standing steadily in the process of “subtraction,” while retaining a peaceful mind and heart.
Publisher's note: This monthly reflection is published with direct permission from Joyce Rupp. Jeanne Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org