Wide open spaces

Vulnerability has been on my mind a lot lately.  In our culture, we get a lot of encouragement and advice to help us avoid being vulnerable.  In business or at war, we are trained to identify vulnerabilities, to protect or eliminate them altogether.  This carries over into our personal lives, too.  Be cool.  Don’t let them see you sweat.  Whatever you do, don’t talk about being vulnerable; just take care of it.

Our 12 -Step programs are countercultural.  They tell us to “surrender to win,” that we must acknowledge complete defeat before we can hope to find restoration or, better yet, transformation.  Jesus tells us we must lose our lives if we are to find them.

The beautiful beast pictured here presented himself to my small jeep community of 4 as we sat quietly watching some other lions – a pair of mamas and babies – playing lazily beside this cluster of rock, known as a “croppy.”  It was heart-expanding to be able to witness such beauty, to encounter God’s magnificent creation left to do her thing with minimal interference from humankind.

During this time in Tanzania, I was on a journey – a pilgrimage from my viewpoint – with my friends from Productive Learning and Leisure who sponsored this “learning vacation.”  Like any pilgrimage entered into with even a smidgeon of willingness, it is an experience that will continue to give to you if you allow it.  It unfolds over time giving one a sense of mystery in which the temporal and eternal meet.

About midway through this journey, which involved periods of reflection, interrupted only when we encountered glorious wildlife, one of my jeep-mates asked me about my tendency to slouch.  He was extremely gentle and yet refreshingly direct.  I had a moment of going within to negotiate what to do next. I took a chance on being vulnerable.  I would prefer to stand tall all the time.  I would prefer that my friend saw me as an elegant tall woman with excellent posture.  But he saw me as I am, and this awareness, acknowledged and owned in community, gave me an authentic place from which to start.  (When we start where we are instead of where we think we should be, we have a far better chance of finding traction.) I ended that journey with a clear vision that I am still striving to live into.  A vision to stand tall like the giraffe.  To move gracefully and powerfully with a sense of broad perspective.  To own and express my gifts and help others to do the same.

The part of me that struggles with “perfection,” with what I imagine I should be like, still can lead me off course.  But every time I am able to muster the courage to look at what actually is, then I can find my footing.  Then the possibilities open again – open as wide as the plains of the Serengeti, if I let them.  May grace come in those moments.  May the Creator of All whisper in my ear, encouraging me to stand tall and walk into the wilderness, into that wide-open space rather than retreating to the small, the familiar, the comfortable.

Me at our campsite on the Serengeti

About Mother Beth Tjoflat

Episcopal priest, urban contemplative, playwright, lover of hounds, American of Chilean-Norwegian-Moravian descent. Interests include transformational ministry with the forgotten and marginalized; church planting and congregational development; 12-step spirituality; Hispanic ministry; radical hospitality, and spending time with dear friends.
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2 Responses to Wide open spaces

  1. Julia Walsh says:

    Amen! God bless you and your mission!

  2. Thanks for your support, Julia!

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