Monday, September 12, 2016

What You Can Learn from a Key Chain

So, this is limbo.

Eagerly awaiting the new assignment, feeling a bit like a horse in the gates before a race, pawing at the ground.

And while this span of time is a bit confusticating (Tolkien's word, not mine), there are lessons to be learned in this quiet, liminal landscape.  One of them, curiously, came from an ordinary key chain.

Before I had completely shut down my office in Coleman Morse on ND's campus, I went through a series of purges.  These had nothing to do with the obvious ones – goods, or cars, or clothes, or any other belongs: the "stuff" of this world, if you will.  It had to do, rather, with keys – the real badge of engagement at an institution.

Over the span of a couple of weeks, one by one, I gave all these material means of access away – the key to the choir loft, the storage room in the sacristy, the door to the Log Chapel, CoMo's basement, the choir rehearsal rooms, car keys, my own office key.  (And hey, I even gave back my access card to all the ND security gates!  How noble!)  As each one was handed to the appropriate steward, the action carried with it a sense of liberation... and more than a little vulnerability.

It's interesting how we hold on to certain things to provide some definition of our lives.  Most of these things have to do with the "stuff" – credit cards, favourite restaurants or watering holes, familiar routines, work spaces, environments.  But take a leap off the cliff, and all these compass points disappear pretty quickly.

Watching the ND football game last weekend, I was inundated with a commercial message:  "What's in YOUR wallet?"  I could accurately say, "Not much!"  And I now have a key chain with only two things on it: the first is a tiny fob with a caricature of Saint Brigid.  The second is a key that, quite honestly, I'm clueless as to what it unlocks.  I'm keeping it there, though. It's a telling reminder of the fact that, in many ways, I'm uncertain of what will be opened in the months and years to come.  But I'm fairly confident that letting go of all these props has something to do with a journey of grace, and that the lessons learned from this time should be kept close to the heart.

Jesus urged his band of disciples to head out without a whole lot in their backpacks.  And probably, by 21st century standards, my wife and I are moving in the right direction.  I'm a long way from just a walking stick and a pair of sandals.  But a lot has been let go of in the past three months.  And there's much to be learned in this journey of abandonment – starting with a simple key chain.

1 comment:

  1. Having just completed the Camino de Santiago in April, I can completely relate to the paring down of one's possessions to embark upon a spiritual quest. With only bare essentials in my backpack, I was dependent on the hospitality and generosity of those who I met along the Way. Godspeed to you and Michele as you await for the next leg of your life's journey.

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