I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Nancy Joan Brighid neé Muire’s reflection “Lessons in Humility.”
Most of my life I thought I was successfully managing to get and then control what I wanted. Money was coming in, I owned my home. I had a husband. Then in 2010, disaster struck. By 2012, I was divorced and living on my own. I had bought a home and small acreage in southwestern Colorado and was managing it as a homestead farm. I had a sweetheart, a long distance relationship. None of it was working like I wanted it to. I was in over my head. I lost my job. I got sick. The next seven years were topsy turvy with multiple moves for work. Finally, I took early retirement in 2016, and entered the AmeriCorps program. I was in AmeriCorps for 2 1/2 years. Two of those were as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). The Sweetheart relationship ended. I became homeless for four months between the two years of VISTA, due to a failed second year VISTA appointment. Then I managed to sell my homestead farm, which got me back on my feet. Getting back up on my feet used up all the equity from the real estate sale. Now I live in a beautiful subsidized senior apartment complex near downtown in Albuquerque.
I tell you this story because not being able to hold down a job, and spending much of my time in dire poverty over the last seven years, has taught me a valuable lesson. It is about humility and openings. It is about letting go and letting God.
The best three of the lessons came in quick succession.
Lesson 1: My second year of VISTA ended in late summer. The small stipend I received for service was ended. I had used up almost all the equity from the sale of my home farm. I was on the waiting list to get into subsidized housing. I had been asked to teach at SIPI (Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, a tribal college) but the application/on-boarding process was not going well. I was terrified that I would end up homeless, again. I became distraught. Then, finally, I came off the waiting list for HUD subsidized housing and started the application to get into the apartment I now live in.
The lesson: if I had not had my VISTA stipend end, if SIPI had hired me immediately instead of the long slow process it took to get me in, then, I would not have been financially eligible to get into the beautiful senior apartment in which I now live.
Lesson 2: Shortly after I moved into my new apartment all of the lights on the dash in my car lit up. I took it to the car dealership for repair. I was scared that I would not be able to pay the bill as I’d just used up almost all of the bit of money I had left to move. If I lost my car because I couldn’t pay the bill, then, I would not be able to get to SIPI to work. If I can’t work, then I will not be able to make ends meet.
The lesson: For one day I had no wheels. It was a day I didn’t work at SIPI. I did have two medical appointments, though, which I had to cancel. I was late getting out the door to take my service dog for her morning walk because I was on the phone with the car repairman. As a result of the delay to get out and my canceled medical appointments, I met on my walk both the Manager and the President of the Board of the Sawmill Community Land Trust (the non-profit property holders of the place I now live). I was able to talk to them about making the community garden on the Land Trust ADA compliant. Subsequently, as a result of this conversation, the property owner has agreed to spend the money to do this, so, I no longer have to apply for grants to accomplish this small project I want to see come to fruition.
Lesson 3: A few days after the debacle with my car, my SIPI students in my range science class were being disrespectful. The teaching/lecture had not gone well because of that. I was very discouraged. At the same time, I noticed that I had not included my lesson for Thursday on my syllabus. This is an omission that I still scratch my head over.
Lesson: if my students hadn’t acted up on Tuesday… If I hadn’t missed putting the lesson plan into my syllabus for Thursday… Then, I wouldn’t have gotten to teach my students a valuable lesson about the Golden Rule, and building strong teams by treating each other with kindliness and respect.
The Bottom Line: I’ve learned that trying to control my life; and worrying when I can’t, and when things don’t go the way I’ve planned… is precisely the time when the Holy Spirit speaks most clearly to me. Closings become openings. Without humility closings can’t become openings for wondrous miracles to happen because I am not present to listen.
This is, I believe, rung three of the Ladder of Humility. In The Rule of Benedict, It states, “Truly, we are forbidden from doing our own will, for scripture tells us ‘turn away from your desires’ (Sir. 18:30). And in prayer too we ask that Gods ‘will be done’ in us (Matt. 6:10]. We are rightly taught not to do our will…”
I think, I pray, and I hope that I’m finally beginning to learn this lesson.
The snow floats down
Lazily from pearly skies.
Pine tree peaceably accepts
Her white and rainbow cloak
As she gracefully dreams
Her winter thoughts.
His winter stocks
Of dried berries
And insects caught
In tree sap amber.
Ambles to her door
To sniff the air
And taste the winter snow.
And curls around her pregnant belly
On her couch of sleep
In her twig built home
Within the safety
Of her carefully wrought dam.
The pace of life
Slows to winter stillness
And mostly indoor activities
For we scant haired
Our opposable thumb hands
Repair and sharpen
Growing season tools.
Warm woolen garments
For our loved ones.
As the trees
We dream our winter thoughts
While fire flickers on the hearth.
And snow settles on the roof
Of our Advent season home.
Nancy Joan Brighid neé Muire, OblSB lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is an educator who works mostly with Native youth. The natural sciences curriculum she continuously develops is place-based and culturally embedded. After many years of agnosticism and trauma recovery, Nancy entered a dedicated spiritual path in 1997. That path reflects her deep relationship with wild lands as a field botanist and ecologist; and her Christian roots as a rebellious Baptist preacher’s daughter. She has close ties with Contemplative Outreach (2006), the Northumbria Community (2009), and Benedictine spirituality (2012). Nancy personally undertook vows as a Benedictine Anchoress in 2017. To learn more about Nancy’s calling as an educator you may visit her website EarthFriendlyed.com. To enjoy her spiritual viewpoint you may read her blessings, essays and poetry at NancyJoanBrighid.com.