So I’m not old, but I’m not young either. I’ve been known to joke with my husband about being a hipster with my blog and my… well, there really isn’t anything else, which is why it is a joke between us. But as I sit at the Sentient Bean in Savannah – definitely feeling hipster – I am struck by how our labels can inspire us but also cramp us.
After all, I feel hipster because I think sitting in a coffee shop is what hipsters do. But they also have jobs, go to school, do amazing social justice work in our community, go grocery shopping and put pants on in the morning – at least all the ones sitting here with me this morning have put pants on! And there are plenty of business people here this morning not looking terribly hipster – one has a jacket, another a tie. And we wouldn’t say the older couple in the corner are “hipster” but I bet they were the equivalent in their youth. And they still love having their morning coffee together at the coffee shop long after it makes them look “cool.”
We tend to label our spiritual lives too. This can be helpful. If I say I am a contemplative, it helps other contemplatives find me. They want to know there are other people out there who do centering prayer or look for God in the quiet places.
But it can also be limiting. Does that mean I need silence to listen to God, or can I hear God speaking just as clearly in the hurry and hustle of the coffee shop?
The nature of listening for God is to be able to do both, opening yourself in the quiet and in the noise of life. I need the practice in the quiet to hear among the noise, but it is often in the noise that the most important messages come through. My spiritual director and I have discussed how rather than peace and quietness, my time with God often involves wrestling for a blessing, like Jacob at the river (see Genesis 32). I may end up limping, but I am also renamed and called to deeper relationship.
What labels are you called? What labels do you put on yourself? Do you find them helpful and/or limiting? When you go deeper with God, what does it feel like?
If you want to know more about opening yourself to God, contemplative prayer, or just exploring your spiritual life, visit me at www.letthespiritin.com.