Hello! I am Lindsay, one of the newest spiritual directors at Loyola Spirituality Center. The spiritual direction ministry at Loyola played an important role in my journey towards becoming a spiritual director over the past 5 years, so it is especially meaningful to now be joining the staff. In introducing myself, I’d like to share something different from what I’ve shared in my bio, so I will offer you my favorite poem by Mary Oliver, followed by a brief reflection.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
The first time I encountered this poem, something deep inside me leapt up to grab hold of the words You do not have to be good. I had been trying so hard in my life that walking a hundred miles through the desert captured just how tired and weary I felt. Those words – you do not have to be good – offered me permission I needed. But it wasn’t permission arbitrarily given; rather, it felt like the invitation of a wise desert mother saying, “Slow down. Rest. Notice the world around you.”
Yes. I only had to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves. The soft animal of my body loved solitude, depth, a slow pace, simplicity – knowledge that was especially easy to grasp when I was in nature, surrounded by trees, water, and wildlife. In nature, these loves of mine felt chock full of possibility and life. But put me in an extroverted church (and American) culture, surrounded by so many people and voices, and they quickly felt impossible.
So, I was living daily life pulled in two opposing directions, and this had to do with why spiritual direction became so significant in my life. Spiritual direction provided a space for me to be with this tension without fixing or solving it. Spiritual direction offered me a safe haven to explore the person God created and is continually creating me to be. Spiritual direction also showed me the welcome and care that God has specifically for me through a spiritual companion who listened to and cared about my complex inner world.
Every time I read “Wild Geese,” it speaks to me in new and different ways. Today, having now written this reflection, I am reminded of what Mary Oliver knew nature and animals are always modeling for us: not simply how to be, but how to be oneself in the family of things. A lifelong education.
I am full of gratitude to find myself a part of the Loyola community as a spiritual director. I hope this has helped you get to know a small something about me. And thank you for welcoming me into your heart in the process – I hope I can soon return the kindness.