Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coracles and Currents

This morning, I have coracles on the brain, thanks to Dave Bonta's post (complete with video) on his experience with coracles on his recent visit to Wales.  I knew that ancient Celtic monks set off in little boats, but seeing modern people in a coracle made me think about those monks with new admiration.

Dave reminds us, "Though the ancient ocean-going coracles did probably have rudders (and according to The Voyage of St. Brendan, could be fitted with a sail), their relative unsteerability constituted part of their attraction to Celtic monks, for whom the ideal form of travel involved surrendering to the will of God and going wherever the winds and currents took them. Some of the more God-besotted ones set off without even an oar."

Without even an oar!  As I watched the video, I thought, I'm not even sure an oar would help much, although obviously, with practice, perhaps it would get easier.  And again, I'm thinking about all of these ideas and the kinds of symbols they present.

I think about those monks setting out, and I think about our modern selves, with our sense that we're in control--at least, until the recent events of the economic meltdown, many of us assumed we were in control.  There have been times when I've wished that I had just given money away to the homeless.  Even if they used it to buy alcohol, I'd have preferred that scenario to the one of corrupt bankers and Wall Street types stealing my money.

Actually, I'm being a bit disingenuous.  I never was that invested in our economy.  I simply do not make that kind of money.  We bought our house in 1998, with a traditional 30 year loan, the way our parents did throughout the last part of 20th century.  My investments, such as they were, lost a bit of ground, which they've since made up.  So, for the most part, I didn't enjoy the 30% return rates of various markets, but neither did I suffer.

Still, all these events make me think about how much we middle class people like to think we're in charge of our destinies.  Those Celtic monks knew better.

What would it feel like to completely turn my life over to God?  How could I be sure it was God steering me and not some random current?

This week, I've been thinking about being a hospice chaplain, a real career change, not just adopting the practices of a hospice chaplain into my current workplace.  Why am I having these thoughts?

At Synod Assembly, I said, "You know, if seminaries ever decided to make a buy-one-get-one-free special, my spouse and I would sign right up."

I've said that before, in a joking, breezy tone.  But at Synod Assembly, I said it to a friend who said, "You know, there are programs in place . . . ."  And we happened to be talking right in front of the Southern Seminary display, and a woman came right over to talk to us.

Yikes!  What had I done?  I backpedaled.  I said, "Now, I wouldn't want to be a parish pastor."

"What kind of pastor would you like to be?" the woman asked.

"A hospice chaplain," I said.

Now why would I say that?  I'm terrified of hospitals.  I hate the thought of dying, even if it means I get to go to heaven--or to be more honest, I guess it's the process of dying that scares me deeply, death not so much.

But I've felt myself drawn to the idea of helping dying people with the transition to the other side, with the idea of providing comfort to the loved ones of the dying.  It's worthy work.  It seems like a career path that won't be outsourced to other countries.  There will be continuing demand. 

I'm always on the look out for nudges from the Holy Spirit.  I want to be willing to go where God needs me to be.  I want to launch my coracle with the faith of those ancient Celtic monks.


Beth said...

That's strange. I've often felt a prompting that might have also caused me to blurt out "hospital chaplaincy" when someone asked a question about vocation. Still haven't acted on it (for some of the same reasons you cite) and may never do so, but I'll be curious to see where you go with this. And I love how Dave's post inspired your thinking and writing today.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

I thought I was the only one! Thanks for your comment. Dave's post was a wonderful thing, and I've been happy to spend so much time thinking about coracles, which I knew very little about before.

shoreacres said...

Just so you know, I came here from Dave's blog. And I'm smiling, for all sorts of reasons.

I was especially caught by this line:
How could I be sure it was God steering me and not some random current?

My answer, after 64 years afloat? You can't be sure. ;-)