My apologies for the headline. I’ve come to hate those ‘up-worthy’ internet burlesque artists who prey upon our need to know, our thirst for fulfillment, our fear of missing out, and our dis-ease with the slightest gap between us and the next big thing (Here’s a helpful summation of my discontent). I’m sorry to lure you here with such cheap tricks, but I am sincerely curious about what happens next and I really do believe that it will, in fact, amaze you.
In this post there will be no kittens who think they’re pit-bulls, nor elephants playing jazz piano, nor waitresses receiving mysterious million-dollar tips. I don’t know what is yet to come and I’m certainly not prophetic enough to know what it will do to your mind or your heart or your worldview. What I’d like to say is less of a promise and more of a petition, less like a prediction and more like a prayer. I think that what happens next will only amaze you if it has more to do with faith, hope, and love than it does to do with kittens and elephants, or even million-dollar tips.
You see, the thing about faith hope and love is that they’re not really concerned with what happens next, but rather with what’s happening right now. Faith promises amazement even as it embraces the unknown. Hope sings in the darkness long before the dawn. Love fills the present by its patience and persistence. They each revel in mystery. They’re all nourished in bewilderment. The no-matter-what-ness of fidelity, the foolish-ness of hope, and the come-what-may-ness of any love worth its salt–these are promises that guarantee amazement, in light of and in spite of whatever happens to happen next.
It’s graduation season again. The ceremonies seem to get more elaborate and there seem to be more and more of them. Pre-school. Primary-school. Middle-school. High-school. Under-grad. Grad-school. Everyone gets a ceremony. It’s like spring-training for wedding season–lots of wobbly-high heels and clip-on ties. I must confess, I’m a bit fatigued by the long procession of ceremonies, the endless awards given and received, the sashes upon sashes and stoles upon stoles. I think we’re approaching a precarious place in our culture when the old pomp and circumstance doesn’t require any real or remarkable circumstance in order to pomp.
And yet, I’m not here just to rain on the parade. If you’re graduating or moving on in any way, then you’re surely, and understandably, thinking a lot about ‘what happens next.’ As you move through this transition I hope that you have a very nice ceremony, but even more, I hope that you don’t fail to have the actual experience of transition, of transformation. Don’t let the noise of celebration rob you of the real pain of leaving or the real hope of change. Know yourself beloved, know this to be reason enough for hope, and let yourself be amazed by whatever happens next.
I hope you understand that what happens next has everything to do with what’s already happening. I hope you understand that who you will become has everything to do with who you already are. I hope you understand that the love you’ve known and the love you long for have their meeting place in you and — if you can make a place for both of them — you can remain in love, no matter what happens next.
Rumi suggests that we “sell our cleverness and buy bewilderment.” Best commencement speech ever…and at six words it would be the shortest too…win-win. Many like to tell you about what will happen next and many more hope to profit off of your curiosity and need. And yet, precious few are willing to affirm the amazement to be found in what already is, the beauty in your being who you already are–the beloved. More than a seeker, become a lover. Sell your cleverness, buy bewilderment, and what happens next will, necessarily, amaze you.
I’m about to move through another transition of my own from one stage in my Jesuit formation to another. We move a lot. I’ve reflected on this before, and before, and before. I’m becoming quite good at living this vagrant life. Here’s something I’ve learned, something I sincerely think is ‘up-worthy’: Nothing is lost in change. Transformation deepens and develops the love we’ve known into the love we’ve yet to know. We move from home to home, from friend to friend, from glory to glory.
I’ll be moving throughout the summer, moving from one city to another. Two days here; ten days there; back home for a night; out again for a week. In each destination emails and hashtagged posts will go out asking for a ride to the airport, a place to stay, a companion to share a meal. There will be many strangers and unknowns. However, through it all there is a kind of peculiar continuity, a mysterious trust that as I move forward the love I knew in one place will be discovered again in the next.
St. Ignatius suggests that when we pray we ought to speak with God as one friend to another. I’d like to add: we ought to live with God from one friend to another. Our lives in God are a movement from friend to friend. As St. Paul says, we go from glory to glory–and not only from friend to friend, but even to the stranger, to the enemy–we’re simply moving from glory to glory.
What happens next won’t really do much of anything to you if you don’t fully appreciate what’s happening right now. What happens to you is only a part of what happens within you, what happens in you and through you. That, my friends, is worthy of our attention. This unfolding revelation isn’t rooted in a fear of missing out or a compulsive need to fill in the blanks, or the resolution of some vague dissonance. The happening that is your life demands something closer to faith than mere fulfillment, something more like profound hope than superficial happiness, because yours is a life worthy of love.
Faith, hope, and love. I’d suggest clicking on those links all day long because I know, on the basis of my experience and the testimony of many beloved witnesses, that what happens next will, in fact, amaze you…because, and it bears repeating, yours is a life worthy of love.
The cover image, from Flickr user Jason Bache, can be found here.