One of my favorite collects out of the Book of Common Prayer is part of the Order for Compline:
“Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP, p. 133)
Right now I am a little weary and in need of some rest, and not just because I started writing this at 10 pm last night while watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
I am about to set out on a new journey. In a week, I’ll be moving to Boston to start a year of service with the Life Together program, where I will be living in community with others and doing some exciting outreach work at a local Episcopal parish. This new opportunity came really quickly, only within the past few weeks. As you can imagine, I have spent a lot of my time recently packing, crossing things off my “Philly Bucket List”, and catching up with friends to say goodbye.
This evening after I started packing my books away (which was an emotionally exhaustive process in and of itself, let me tell you), I stared at my near empty bookshelf and the empty cardboard boxes waiting to be packed with my belongings. I looked up at the photos of my wall, of my sister and I when we were young, and of my best friend and I, smiling as always. I felt tears coming on; they are bittersweet. Anxiety at leaving, anticipation and joy in the future, sadness at leaving virtually everyone I know behind.
I have wanted this— to be on my own, doing work that I am excited about— so badly. I’ve felt as though it has been postponed so many times in my life. I finished school later than most of my peers because of my mental health and financial setbacks. I have envied friends who knew early on what they wanted to do with their careers, graduated, and are doing the things they are passionate about now.
I have been frustrated and disappointed so many times, caught in the throes of so many “changes and chances”. In the weeks leading up to getting this job, I found myself often turning to one of my favorite prayers by St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
In this prayer, St. Ignatius offers over to God his entire being, recognizing that it is God’s property. It is a radical act of surrender; an acknowledgement that everything we are, from our thought processes to our free will, is a product of Divine ingenuity. It is asking God to shape us into the person God needs and wants us to be.
To me, this is what means to “rest in [that] eternal changelessness” as the collect asks. To recognize that amidst all these changes, all these shifts and setbacks, God is guiding it all, like a celestial conductor of a divine orchestra. We’re just here to perform.
At once, the thought of leaving the place I’ve called home for 25 years is unnerving. I will be in a place where I only know a handful of people. I will be miles away from my family and friends. There’s a lot of anxiety in my mind and heart. But I continue to offer myself over to God, knowing that there is only so much growth I can do here in Philly, and that there is work to be done in Boston. I’m excited for the work I’m going to be doing and to be living in intentional community, caring for and working with others. We will all be discerning our journeys together. I am nervous, yes, but I am also joyous. I am ready for this new chapter. I am letting God take the reins.
That’s why I’m saying, “Take, Lord, and receive everything that I am, for I am yours. Take me and lead me to where You want me to go. My hands are Your hands, my feet Your feet; my ears are Your ears and my eyes Your eyes. My whole being is Yours. Do with me what You will, that I may serve your people wherever you take me.”