Father Mark, Reflections


Years ago, I read a very important book while in my Master’s Course in Pastoral Counseling entitled, “Transitions,” by William Bridges. The book later became a basis for an employee management program but focuses on the dynamics of loss due to change. The book dovetailed perfectly with the grief work that I began and continued to study and work with for the next 20 years. Bridge’s simple images make it easy for any of us who have experienced change; to identify with the experiences of transitions and to learn to resist less and accept more in the midst of the mental stressors of attempting to find our balance. But there are spiritual stressors also. Right now, the rituals and community life we have held so dear have been put on the shelf for the most part. Fifty-five percent of our human communication is kinesthetically based in a face to face interaction. Thirty-five percent involves tone of voice and only 7 percent of communication involves words. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how empty text messaging can become while adapting to it can make the kinesthetic experience feel out of place, thus harming the mental and social functioning of those affected.

One of the greatest concerns I have as a priest and mental health practitioner is that we are adapting to a new way of life so that distancing becomes “normalized.” Many may find it extremely awkward to reintegrate the kinesthetic, face to face including appropriate human touch after it has been locked in the closet. There are other factors involved which I cannot address here. But I want to share my deepest concern with you that the new “normal,” ain’t normal; while at the same time not triggering any of us into a sense of despair while we’re trying to cope. What I do want to accomplish is to give us a blueprint to help us all realize what we’re going through, sometimes when we don’t even realize it.

Bridges uses the image of Trench Warfare (see above aerial photo). When we leave the trench, heading for the trench ahead somewhere where we have never been, we find ourselves not a point A, where we left, nor at Point B, where we haven’t arrived yet, but in infantry term, “no man’s land,” the “Neutral Zone” (above) or as in A.A. Milne’s poem, “Halfway Down,” sitting in the middle step, not being up or down. “Here” is not “there.” “It’s not like being anywhere at all,” We’re in between.

Being in between is not an enjoyable experience. It’s like circling an airport in a plane, wondering when we’re going to land. It’s a feeling of being “suspended” like living in a weightless space capsule, as our activities have been and we’re not quiet sure what to “do” about it. The experience of feeling disoriented couldn’t be more normal for our situation when it doesn’t feel normal. Some of the experiences are listed in the above image. Of course, we want to “hurry things up” get into and through the Neutral Zone, but cannot change the environment. When we look at what we’ve lost, and we need to to be honest and grieve it, we also need at the same time as we’re attempting to accept the loss and discover God in the midst of it, to focus on cultivating our environments so that we are open to Holy Spirit’s calming presence, grounding us in the midst of a place and time that we’re not able to comprehend. Meeting God in the moment also helps us to find the little things in life on which we can focus to be able to create something new, rather than just looking for diversion after diversion after diversion which is avoidance. We’re somewhere in Phase I, Endings, and maybe creeping into the mystery of the middle phase. Don’t even think about the third column yet because we’re not there. Look at it once and notice the process and then come back to the present moment. Why? Because God will lead us there when it’s time and when we’ve done our work in Phase I and II of our transition. Our egos can get carried away as politicians do, thinking that we can create Utopia if we just apply ourselves. All we do is create more suffering due to our resistance and delusion.

Life finds a place to be born in the most unexpected places…often on the edge…

God speaks to me through Creation probably more than anything else. When I walked by the Pecan Tree in front of the office, I noticed this new sprig of leaves grounded in a one inch knot extended from the tree. So my immediate revelation received was, If God can create Life in a one inch tree knot, God can do it in me. So God has taken us out of the ordinary to create something new that we don’t have the blueprint for (so much for the mirage of control) in a microcosm of space and meets us here. Some where, some place within me, within you, there is a branch that is ready to pop out of us. We just have to pay attention.

So when your mind takes off looking for a place to land where you once were or off in some Disney like pipe dream, come home. Be present. Be still. Observe. Wait. Feel. Ask and it will be given you. Knock and the door will be opened unto you. (Matt. 7). This sure makes more sense that running around like a bunch of crazed chickens (I know, I used to raise them).

And don’t forget to laugh at yourself. It takes faith for us to laugh at ourselves because it means that we’re trusting God more than our own wits and performance. What was it that Moe said to Curly Joe? “Don’t be a nit wit.” Nyuk Nyuk. Don’t think. Just receive what has already been given. Receive the Mystery.

I really think Jesus laughed that Easter Morning. I just don’t think it got into the Gospels.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, be yours.

Fr. Mark