This post is part of a series on spiritual disciplines called Merely Beloved. Casey and I were in seminary. She always struck me as a deeply spiritual and sensitive person besides being creative, beautiful, and passionate. For more information about this series, click here.
For a long time spiritual discipline and I were frenemies. I wanted to have spiritual disciplines, I really did. I’ve attempted them many times. I did doodle prayers for a few weeks, got 10 days into the Forty Days with Madeline L’Engle book, and have even made my way around a labyrinth or two (though my finger labyrinth is shoved somewhere in my office desk…I think). But nearly every time I attempted to enter into a routine spiritual practice I was confronted with the reality that “discipline” and Casey do not mix well. I am an extrovert, but the only spiritual disciplines I could think of involved solitude and silence. And it’s not just that I’m an extrovert, I’m an ADHD extrovert. (Do ADHD introverts exist?) Ooo, a bird!
I am a pastor who is blessed with a diagnosis of ADHD. I say blessed because I’m doing a lot of reframing lately. In my reframing, I have come to realize that I am blessed with the ability to think broadly, to be creative, to notice odd connections, to speak honestly, and much more. Much of that is wrapped up with the struggles of being ADHD. For a long time I lived with constant shame of things not done, organizational skills not had, and spiritual disciplines not practiced. No more. It’s time to reframe.
Reframing is a discipline itself, and, I would say, it is quite spiritual. Who has God created me to be? How will I live that out? How am I being challenged to utilize my strengths and understand my weaknesses?
The reframing is a constant process and I have not come to it alone. Enter my other disciplines. There are three things in my life which are feeding me and sustaining me:
1) The Divas. No, I’m not talking about Aretha and Beyonce (though they have their own powers of feeding the soul)…I’m talking about my covenant group (the mDivas…get it?). We are five women who gather twice a month to share, to support, to challenge, to deepen our knowledge of God and one another. The group had been together for a year or two before I was invited to join. It felt odd at first, like trying to be a part of someone else’s family. It’s not that they weren’t inviting–I’ve never met such open and intentional people. They were amazing. It was me. I had never experienced practiced vulnerability in such a way and it was awkward. But I sensed the love, and was drawn in by these amazing women. I quickly learned that this group could and would be a sanctuary for me. When we are together, it’s not a gripe-fest, though sometimes we gripe. It’s not a mutual-admiration-fest, though we truly love and admire each other. It’s a real-fest, I suppose. Two times a month I gather with the people who will love me through my crazy, call me out when needed, share my joy with unbridled enthusiasm, and force me to see the awesomeness of me. Don’t have a group? Make one. Now. And when you create one, do it with intention. Make a covenant and keep it. If you can, bring in outside assistance to begin. Check your ego at the door. Be vulnerable and risky for the sake of wholeness. If that’s not a spiritual discipline, I don’t know what is.
2) My spiritual director. I don’t see her enough. Half the time I’m convinced she thinks I’m the most boring self-obsessed person in the world—even though she treats me as if there is no one more important. She helps me have eyes to see myself and God more clearly. When I call her because I’m running late, she says things like, “Come gently.” I’d write more, but I need to go make another appointment. It’s been too long, but she will make sure to tell me that it’s been as long as it needed to be.
3) Learning to tell the story. Over the last year I have begun to tell Biblical stories in and out of worship. There is something about speaking the texts aloud that makes a world of difference. How did Jesus sound when he spoke to the Pharisees? When Mary sang her “Magnificat,” was she a bold and exuberant mother-to-be, or a scared but faithful teenager? Saying scripture out loud and internalizing it has changed the way I encounter the story. Suddenly, there is much less distance between Peter, Herod, or Pilate and me…and fortunately, between Jesus and me. I see myself as part of God’s continuing story in all of its messiness and glory. Internalizing them has made them a part of my story—such that the stories have begun to return to me at unexpected moments. These stories are gifts, every one of them. If you’re interested in learning to tell stories, check out the work of the Network of Biblical Storytellers. Or go to Tom Boomershine’s website to find tips for learning and telling stories.
I will never be one to sit quietly and read and reflect for an hour each morning. My best reading is done while my body is in motion on the elliptical. I need movement. I need people. And yes, sometimes even I need solitude and silence. I suppose spiritual disciplines and I are friends after all. Maybe not quite “besties,” but we’re working on it.
Casey FitzGerald is an associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, VA. She is currently finishing work to be certified as a biblical storyteller through the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. When not juggling a husband, son, daughter, dog, church, and stories, she blogs at Faith and Wonder.