My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth
and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.
When I first read this poem by Mary Oliver, I declared it the poem that described my life. My mantra then became, “my work is loving the world”.
Since my ordination people have asked, what will you do now? Will this change your work in the world? Will you lead a church? What will you do differently, if anything?
My first response is still this line from the poem, my work is loving the world. That is my purpose at the very core of my being, and it is expressed in various ways in my life. I have certainly seen it expressed in my work with young people over the years, nothing has grown my heart more than seeing them find their light and bring it into the world. I express it now in the way I supervise my dream team, humbled by the opportunity to work with such amazing people. I express it in the way I listen with my heart to others. In the way I move the worm off my kale so I can prepare my morning smoothie, or in the way I stop as I walk out the door and catch the first breath of fresh air in the morning. My work is loving the world.
It is my personal vow, taken as I became ordained, repeated now and lived on a daily basis, as I have lived it for the past 52 years.
Since graduation it seems to have taken on a new life. Perhaps it was speaking it out loud in front of my One Spirit family, perhaps it was the transmission of Spirit and the essence of Love in the ordination ceremony, perhaps it was the declaration of who I am at graduation for all the world to see, but there is now a certain seriousness, an urgency that was not there before.
The time is now and the voice is clear, take it to the next level. I have contemplated whether taking it to the next level means, heading off to a far away place and giving my life to caring for the sick and lonely ones, or shifting gears in my career to perhaps focus on the dying or make myself even more available in crises or to begin to gather people together to talk about how we might change the world. At graduation, an amazing young spiritual director, activist and youth advocate, Adam Bucko, gave an inspiring speech in which he urged us among other things, to become irrelevant so God could be relevant. His humble nature and powerful vision resonated with me and still lingers in my heart. He is truly loving the world.
So the next level of loving the world could be big, perhaps Adam’s reciprocity foundation is calling me, or an ashram in a far off country, but more likely, the next level is really about living the vow in the moment. I am not concerned about knowing the magnitude of my calling right in this very moment. I trust that Spirit will take me up on the other part of my vow which is to serve where I am called with a grateful heart. I will be shown, just as I always am. For today, I want to love the world fully in every moment. Every moment. Every person, every animal, every moment is an opportunity to love the world.
What if we all lived with this awareness, how would what you are doing today be different? In the poem, Mary Oliver also reminds us of gratitude, for our minds, hearts and body-clothes. We start the process of loving the world with ourselves. With deep appreciation for what we have been given and that we are in this magnificent human form so that we can indeed show up fully to the work we are here to do. I am filled with awe and wonder as I think of it all.
My work is loving the world, what’s yours?