Don leads a non-profit program called CFAR here in San Antonio, Texas. He facilitates dozens of consultation meetings oriented especially for community workers, which he calls “reflection circles.” During these meetings a spectrum of topics can be covered, with emphasis being placed on mental and emotional growth as well as individual healing through the medium of group discussion and reflection.
The Mennonite Voluntary Service volunteers have been in contact with Don for quite some time, but an official group had never been formed under his observation. We decided to take a chance, as we were really wanting an outside perspective beyond the confines of our program, and talk to Don. We have now created our own CFAR “reflection circle,” which we call “The Mennonite (And Friends) Circle.”
During a discussion with us a few days ago Don shared a reflection that shed some light on struggles that he had been having over the past few months. At one point in the conversation he emphasized the importance of trust and being able to do what you love without taking so much time to worry about the logistics. To free yourself from fear and not beat yourself up when something does not go your way or well the first time around.
What are we so worried about? We are afraid that, if we do not instigate change in our lives by controlling everything that happens to us, then change we’d like to see for ourselves will never happen. With a chuckle Don pointed out that “the universe is always changing. That’s the only thing that we can depend on it to do, really.” Nothing will ever remain the same. We can be sure of that.
I find it easy to view the future through the narrow scope of my present situation. I am afraid to go back to school because I wonder if I am too shy to make new friends. I am afraid of not getting a job and having my job experiences not be enough. I am afraid of moving out, since I have not been able to save up money for quite some time.
All of these are real fears. But they are fears being dictated by my current feelings and insecurities. In three months- or in a year, even five years- I could meet someone or do something that will alter my present situation and make me see all of these fears in a new light.
I believe that living with intent can mean living in a manner that appears to be contradictory to the term: to let go and be willing to allow God to do with us what God wills. This has been a year of unclenching my fists, holding out my hands and allowing God to pass through and around me. “Letting go” does not mean lazily sitting back and passively allowing things to happen to you. To let go is to embrace life as a very mysterious thing and to release your hold on whatever is holding you back. Insecurities. Loneliness. Failures. Fear. And to then allow yourself the space to do what you love best and what you know needs to be done. Even if stepping back looks like procrastination or instability to someone else, this could be the path that you are meant to take.
Something that Elayna said near the end of her last reflection really stood out for me (which I have taken the liberty to sum up in my own words):
To live with intent we must do what we are most passionate about, even if these actions are not validated by other people in our lives or valued by the world around us.
I have quite a bit of doubt and fear of what is to come after this year is finished. However, while I have been harboring those feelings, I am also daring to think that I have seen glimmers of what it would look like if I were to release my need to obtain total control over what happens to me. When I have tried to do little things: take an unplanned weekend trip on my own, approach a stranger and ask for help, or participate in a public activity in my community- I have uncovered pockets of myself and my surroundings that I would never have experienced otherwise. These are all situations where, in a sense, you are welcoming vulnerability and disorganization into your life. This is not a concept that our society upholds. We are taught to strive towards controlling our own destiny and to create the future we want for ourselves.
So yes, we need passion and drive in our lives. We need to live with intent. And a part of living with intent is to stop thinking ahead so much and letting ourselves sit in the present for a while.