This past week I looked up some material about the stage of confirmation in the discernment process as articulated by Ignatius. Not surprisingly, what I read indicates that recognizing the obstacles and challenges ahead is a sign of balance and good health, and is probably a sign of confirmation in itself.
I am changing my Whole Life. I am going to live somewhere else a lot of the time, with people I haven't met yet. There will be Major Money Issues. There will be transportation issues. My children are grown, but I am always Their Mom. The gutter is still hanging dizzily from the front corner of the house.
As I watch people come into school to interview for my job, I know that I have lost my mind. All of these people want these hard-to-get teaching jobs, and I have resigned mine. My students, since I am leaving, are full of affection and warmth. And I feel irrationally protective of them. I watch some of the tryout teachers and I think, No. I did not bring them this far for that.
I am going to a Presbyterian seminary in the Reformed tradition and to a training program in spiritual direction in the Catholic tradition. My entire religious life has been like that, always balancing the tensions and promises of difference. I recognize it as one of God's greatest gifts to me, but it's not the easiest one to embrace. I imagine it's going to become more difficult for awhile.
And then it comes. There's always a metaphor lurking out there, if you wait long enough.
I spent the summer I turned twelve at a camp on Torch Lake in the northern reaches of Michigan, up by Traverse City and Charlevoix. Torch Lake is one of the coldest lakes EVER. It is probably about 33 degrees. (OK, so I exaggerate. But it's really cold.) And when you are a camper, you go swimming twice a day -- a lesson in the morning and a free swim in the afternoon.
One of our favorite things to do was to swim out to the raft, some ways out from the main dock, so that we could jump into the fourteen feet of water out there. Once you reached the raft and sat in the sun for awhile, you didn't really want to jump back into that icy water, but you did want to, too, because you could force yourself down to the sandy bottom of the lake and see that the water was absolutely clear. Even at fourteeen feet, it was like being in a chlorinated swimming pool -- blue and clear.
I haven't thought about those afternoons in Torch Lake for a long, long time. But there they are, just when I need to know that you have to withstand the cold to reach the clarity of vision. Cold feet are just what you need.