Always We Begin Again



I spent so many years wishing to go back.

The years between college and the real world were marked by a struggle to find my place, a kind of limbo. I was truly on my own for the first time, a stranger in a city not my own. I was stuck in a place between the dreams God had called me to and actually live them out.

As I was looking for myself, I found something else.

When I think about that time, I can still feel the sticky heat coming off the bayou. I can feel the breeze blowing through the live oaks that hung down like arms reaching out to embrace you. With my feet dangling into the murky waters off Gulf Coast docks, I spent hours discovering a God who was gently whispering His love for me.

God’s voice was as real to me as the jazz music that invaded every corner of the Quarter. In those early years of my adulthood I felt like I had arrived at a new realization of who God was.

I left that place behind and violent storms have since changed the landscape where I discovered God anew. They changed me, too. I married, lived abroad, returned home. I became something new again—this time mother, twice over.

Somehow, in all the landscape changes over the years, that tangible feeling of God’s Presence got swept away like the apartment I lived in next to the beach, crushed under the raging winds of Hurricane Katrina.

I kept trying to recreate those moments when I had heard God so clearly. I longed for my seminary days when I could spend hours debating theology or discussing faith stories. I struggled to hear God in the same way, but the winds shifted and I couldn’t hear it anymore.

I don’t remember who told me about the monastery or what date it was when I actually first visited, but I clearly remember the first time I stepped foot into the abbey about an hour away from my home. Worlds away from the raunchy jazz notes that were the soundtrack of another life for me, the voices of Benedictine monks chanting the Daily Office rang in my ears.

In a very different way than I had years before—now a young mom who couldn’t pray in the same ways I used to—I heard whispers of a God pursuing me.

These weren’t the prayers of my youth, said aloud with bravado, echoing what I had learned I was “supposed” to sound like. They weren’t the prayers of my seminary days, the long conversations with God on the seashore. Centuries old, to me this was a new way of praying. A way forward.

As I sat next to the monks, standing when they stood, fumbling through the liturgy—what was foreign to me felt like home at the same time. It wasn’t the way back I had been looking for.

In those moments I knew I couldn’t go back. I wasn’t the same I had been back then. International life, marriage, and children—so many things had changed me.

“Always we begin again,” said Saint Benedict in his rule these men based their lives around. One of the vows the Benedictines take is that of conversion. In part it is a concept of ongoing transformation, an acknowledgement that we are always on a journey of faith. We don’t ever arrive, but we need to always stay aware of the ways God is moving us.

Forward. God is always moving us forward, never back.

The person I was then will never exist again and I don’t wish to go back anymore.

I wish to find new ways ahead, new prayers to ignite my spirit and new depths of understanding I couldn’t have known as the child I was then. The God I found in the bayou and the God I found in the abbey is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I am the one who is always changing and now I understand that the ways in which I find God, will too.