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Day 73: Abandonment to Divine Providence

This title startled me, mostly because Brian and I had just held some heaviness about the painful absences & changes in congregational life today. The words were still in the imaginary bubble in the living room.

While he cooked dinner, I dipped into to order some things from his birthday/gift list. There it was. Way down at the bottom, added sometime in 2020. On a whim, I ordered it for him, with sense of a smile from Godde.

It's a classic Christian spirituality text attributed to Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a French Jesuit spiritual director in the late seventeenth century. I felt an energetic nudge to bring it into Brian’s sphere, given he is such an organizational-kid steeped in duty and responsibility, often to the point of overwhelming self-sacrifice. He takes on things that are not necessarily his to take on because he also knows: he will be held responsible for the lapses or failings of volunteers or staff members who choose themselves or their family over what (he perceives) ‘needed to be done.’ What does Abandonment to Divine Providence mean to an overworked, over-responsible pastor whose service like this has the community, us, thriving?

[I come by this honestly in my own home, because I grew up with it, and see it so very clearly now. My father, though vastly different, also faces challenges of duty, responsibility, overwhelming self-sacrifice. The congregational church, in all its dysfunction, survives because of this ethic of self-sacrifice amidst an aversion of conflict and decline. We each get to choose what we want for our wild and precious lives AND choosing self is somehow in-grained as selfish, pejorative.]

None of that is why the text has now captured my attention this week.

I grew up with a visceral, even debilitating fear of being left behind, being abandoned. If I weren’t Christian with that cosmology, I’d say I came into this life from another life in which I was abandoned, left for dead. But being who I am, I simply learned in the last ten years that this belly fear has driven me most of my life. Avoiding it, I allowed myself to be disregarded, shamed; finally welcoming it, facing it, I learned abandonment was a trigger for me, but bearable, workable. Ironically, it is also the driving force for so much relational abundance in my life.

The last 18 months or so I’ve been ‘cooking’ with the invitation to surrender to the divine order of things. To trust that the Universe is out to GIFT me, not GET me. That whatever shows up for me is already inside of me, needing healing.

Abandonment to Divine Providence has therefore captured my attention for me.

I already resist the Christian presumptions of power, baptized in gendered language. I balk at the focus on the will of God within such bastardizing frame. But I’m also hearing some wisdom about the sacrament of the present moment. That abandonment could have a freedom within it, not fear.


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