BY HANNAH COLEY | November 17, 2017

God, where is your peace? What are these grumblings?  

I first learned how to drive stick shift in a black pickup truck last year on the gravelly rural dirt roads of Toledo, Belize. It really was a “baptism by fire” sort of experience, as are many aspects of working in youth ministry and living in intentional community for the first time. For my first four months of driving, I maneuvered my vehicle without any knowledge of its inner workings and how shifting gears and utilizing my clutch were necessary to the efficiency of the vehicle.

For the most part, I was driving according to the steps and routines I observed as a passenger to several other drivers. I would listen for the grumbling of the engine as a cue to up or down-shift and utilized my neutral gear in panicked situations, which were frequent.

However, with the help of a few patient veteran teachers, I let loose of my ego and allowed others’ experiences, knowledge, and care to infiltrate and improve my own driving practice.

I quickly learned that while, yes, the groans and mumbles of the car quietly invite me to shift gears, it also reminds me that these groans and grinds are energy and friction waiting to be transformed.

Knowing how to drive stick shift, especially here in Belize, is a privilege of mobility, and with this privilege comes the responsibility to carry others with me. I think about my experience of driving thus far in Toledo, Belize, and the well-worn Belizean transportation system of hitch-hiking comes to mind. It is one that requires trust and “making room” to pick strangers up, travel with them, and safely get them to their destinations. In this process, others’ destinations inevitably become my own, making these drives sacred through the sacraments of relationship and knowing God in the “stranger.”

Like driving, it is also an incredible privilege to have a faith system, a faith community, and a relationship with a God that fits my own context and leads me to compassion.

And like the process of learning to drive stick shift, learning my own spirituality in different moments of my life requires that I listen to my inner grumblings and hungers. It often requires moments of pause to listen to my inner spiritual desires and to allow God to speak; however, every period of transition in my own spiritual life has progressed with the unforeseen company of others.

In many ways, allowing others to enter into my own journey of spiritual growth, whether it be the youth in my community, women who share with me their experiences of faith and life, my fellow Jesuit volunteers, etc., has often redirected my path and allowed me to experience God differently through shared experience and witnessing the various life and faith journeys of my companions.

Through relationship, God makes Herself known in my spiritual journey. Presenting an experience or companion willing to guide me on a different path of grace and birthing within me a new spirituality and awareness of God’s love. By quieting ourselves enough to hear the grumbling of our own spiritual desires and allowing others to accompany us in responding to these needs, our journeys and destinations become incredibly intertwined.

You will know when it is time to bring to birth
the new creation. The signs will be all around you,
urging, insisting: Now is the time.
You have to know just when to bear down
And concentrate on one thing only.
It takes labor, hard, hard labor
to bring to birth something new.

–Miriam Therese Winter

So, I continue to reflect on the work that I can do in response to my own spiritual grumblings. I specifically look to my own identity as a female and a woman who is religious.

I continue to pray and reflect upon the role my femininity can play in a Church that has a great potential to be a sanctuary for those feeling abandoned or isolated.

I continue to reflect on the ways the Church, as my feminine spiritual home, has failed individuals experiencing marginalization and me as a woman, as well as the ways I have been held, nourished, and constructively challenged by Her.  

For other women experiencing deep spiritual grumblings or a desire to accompany others in their spiritual journeys in the mud and muck of our world today, I reflect with the help of Edwina Gateley, Mary Ruth Broz, RSM and Barbara Flynn in Soul Sisters: Women in Scripture Speak to Women Today, a collection of poems and reflections written by Gateley and inspired by the resilient authentic experiences of Biblical and contemporary women, and Midwives of an Unnamed Future: Spirituality for Women in Times of Unprecedented Change.

Through these daily readings, I feel reinvited by God to know and love Her more deeply. I read of the interactions between Jesus the Advocate and women in Scripture, and these interactions often parallel my own experiences of uncomfortable encounter, tossing me into evaluation of own socio-spiritual life.

Furthermore, Broz and Flynn invite me to consider the women and men who have energized my own spiritual journey, those who have eased my pains in moments challenge and grit and helped to celebrate my many moments of “becoming” and transition. All three of these women express the need for spiritual awareness in the muck of pain and challenge.

Just as Gateley, Broz, and Flynn invite me to recognize and respond to the needs of my own spirituality, I invite you to recognize the sacramental moments of grace in your days that bring you stillness and help you to decipher your own spiritual grumblings.

Hannah Coley

Hannah Coley grew up in Chicago, Illinios but calls the small northeast Ohio town of Cuyahoga Falls home. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in May of 2016, majoring in Philosophy with a concentration in Social Justice and minoring in Peace Studies and Dance. She has entered into her second year of service in Punta Gorda, Belize as the Youth Ministry Coordinator for St. Peter Claver Jesuit Parish. She finds freedom and fulfillment in spending quality time with those she loves and with her community (both JV and local) by playing music and singing, cooking, talking, and hiking/kayaking/exploring/experiencing God outdoors. She has been deeply moved by the women in her local and JV communities and in extension of the Women’s Marches that took place all over the world last March, her and her two female community mates took part in La Ruta Maya Canoe Race (175 mile race across the country of Belize). She hopes other young women in her communities might feel encouraged and empowered to find creative ways of experiencing God, community and their inner strength.

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