He is no fool
if he should choose
to give the thing he cannot keep
to buy what he can never loose
to see a treasure in one’s soul
that far outweighs the brightest gold
he is no fool.
– He Is No Fool, Twila Paris
I don’t remember when I first laid eyes on it, maybe mid June or July? All I know is that it glimmered light and refreshment, like a distant mirage in the middle of a barren dessert. “Journey into Silence,” a nine month pilgrimage in community and contemplation, offered through Oasis Ministries. My soul lept within me, like John the Baptist in his mother’s womb when she came face to face with the one who’s womb carried the One.
I quickly scanned the details, seeing how they matched up or not with the details of my life. My hopes grew a little with each discovery, it’s local and held on Saturdays. Travel costs – both time and money – would be low and my husband could stay with the kids, saving us from needing to pay for childcare. I continued reading the pamphlet, taking it in in long cool gulps until, near the end, I came to the cost: $ 1000. Gulp.
I went to the website, shared it on my facebook page, suggested it to friends, sent emails back and forth and had phone conversations trying to convince others it was a worth-while addition to their schedules. Meanwhile that soul that had lept was impatiently waiting, banging on the bars of my heart, calling, “hello, hello, what about me?”
Ah, that soul. I started to notice the old warning signs of anger and resentment seeping out, welling up, like contaminated well-water. First in tiny drips you’d hardly notice, the picking up to a steady stream. “What’s this,” I thought, “anger again? And why am I so mad and fearful?” These were followed by the usual temptations, the temptation to hide in work in particular; work as an escape, a salve, a drug, to numb the need for real beauty, real life, real refreshment.
I listened to my soul, then ventured to share, first with a friend, then finally with my husband, “I keep telling everyone else about this program, but I think I’m the one who needs it. (pause) Do you think we can afford it?”
Thus begins the same long circuitous conversation about what I need that I’m not getting, the space I don’t have, the community my heart flourishes in and my concerns about the anger and resentments I see sprouting, spreading all around like the crabgrass in our flower beds. “I want to make it work,” he says, “but I’m just not sure.” I beg, I bargain, volunteering to give up my once a week childcare that’s costly, but necessary. We bring it to the dinning room table, sit down with the calculator, the bills, the budget sheet, the checkbook and savings. It doesn’t look good.
* * * * * *
In high school I owned about five well-worn cassette tapes and a sweet see-through walkman with wires in neon and day-glow colors. During my forty-five minute bus ride to school I sat hunched down between the hulking green slabs of pleather seating listening to Michael W. Smith and Twila Paris over and over again while others around me listened to Phish and Grateful Dead.
I slid down into the seat, my long legs folded, knees pressing into the back of the seat in front of me, staring out the window at the passing world. In the mornings I watched the sun rising over distant fields, the clouds low and heavy reflecting a reddish glow. I couldn’t help but repeat to myself the rhyme, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” I learned to read the signs.
I feared the tapes would break as they sped, forward and back, coming to an abrupt halt when I pressed stop. I nearly wore them out, fast forwarding, rewinding, listening, trying to convince myself beyond a doubt that I wasn’t a fool. Trying to believe that what I wasn’t getting then was what I couldn’t keep anyways, trying to believe there was treasure in my soul, to convince myself I was not the fool I feared myself to be.
* * * * * *
I wrote my spiritual director and asked whether she thought the program would be a good fit and explained my financial concerns. She replied, “Maybe you should think about whether it’s something you can afford NOT to do.”
It was a question I was already asking myself, a question who’s answer I already knew.
* * * * * *
I’ve done a foolish thing. I signed up for a program I can’t afford. I don’t know how it’ll turn out, but I know what I need and I’m sticking to it and waiting to see how God will show up. Within a day of deciding to apply a friend approached with a childcare opportunity, it fell through, but her asking was enough to remind me God always knows more ways to forge a stream in the desert than I can possibly imagine. Since then I’ve had at least four opportunities for extra income come my way and this reminds me to make my plans based on abundance, not scarcity, and then lean my back into the labor and waiting.
I’ve made my choice to give the things I cannot keep to buy what I can never lose. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve found a treasure in this old field and I’m running off, high-tailing it to go and sell everything I have so I can buy it. And when I do, I’ll dig a well there that reaches down into the depths of the cool, dark earth where the streams of life flow, hidden. And there I’ll drink in long steady gulps and be filled.
When your soul starts banging on the bars of your heart, when it’s parched and dry and withered, please do stop by, there’s water enough to share. Drink deep, gulp if you need to, let it run down your chin and neck and chest. This water will never run out.
Post Script: Since applying and writing this, the cost of this program has been more than covered. I’m so thankful. I hope to continue to write about my journey at Oasis, please do stop back to read more and consider visiting their website to see if their programming might interest you!