On the farm this week, the ice is thawing and the rains are coming down. The sheep continue their daily march from the barn to the field and back to the barn at night. The watching coyote has appeared on the upper field in the middle of the day to remind me that his whole pack is still out there, checking on my faithfulness to my “put the sheep up at night” chore. These daily chores continue, no matter what else might be happening around me. The farm work has continued to ground me as I prepare for what might come. The repetitive nature of the work is not unlike the work I continue to do in the wider world and within my own soul. If you call my phone and I don’t answer, you will hear, complete with the sounds of bleating sheep, “I’m out in the barn doing chores or something.” That about sums it up.
In these few months between the election and the inauguration of a new president tomorrow, I have needed my daily chores. I have needed a reminding of what matters most, and of who I want to be in the world. When I was in motorcycle school fifteen years ago, I was taught that in order to avoid a crash, one needs to look not at what one wants to escape, but at where one wants to go. “Your bike will go where you are looking,” our instructor explained. “If there is something in the road you want to miss, or if there is something happening up ahead that you want to get around, don’t put your focus there. Instead, look to where you want the bike to go.”
Those wise words, when I remember them, have helped me more than once in my motorcycle riding. But in high-stress situations on the bike, it is easy to forget. I will find myself focusing precisely where I don’t want to go. “Watch out,” I say to myself as I give my attention over to that thing in front of me that I don’t want to happen. And the more I give myself to it, the more I find myself heading right where I don’t want to be. Then, somehow, it is as if I hear the voice of my instructor whispering to me, “Look up. Look beyond. See where you want to go.”
All of that is simply another way of saying what I have learned in my wider work. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” I remind myself. These words are usually attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, but as it turns out, he never actually said them. What he did say was, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. . . . We need not wait to see what others do.”
This thought, either in the words of my motorcycle instructor, or the pithy bumper sticker quote, or the longer actual reflection of Gandhi, all invite me to the same place. They remind me of my chores: to keep doing my own inner work of transformation; to claim the larger story, rather than to allow someone else to shape the narrative of my life; to be accountable for my part of the larger call of Jesus. And finally, this insight empowers me to continue to live in the light and the hope of my faith.
This weekend I will be gathering at a Women’s Retreat with many from my church. Others from my congregation will be watching the inauguration on Friday, and marching on Saturday somewhere- in Seattle, or on Whidbey Island, or in Washington D.C. We will all be doing our chores, as we continue to look to where we want to go. We are working for a world that recognizes the ways we are all connected, that honors diversity and values each person, that is aware of the sacredness of all creation, that embodies social justice and acts out of reconciling love. Jesus, citing his Jewish tradition, put it this way: “Love God with all your heart, with all your being, with all you strength, with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).