Unexpected: How the Sacred Calls to Us
By: Karen Skalitzky
“Ant!” my four-year old son yells as he grabs two empty yogurt containers from a bottom drawer in the kitchen. He turns and runs back to the ant, placing the containers on the floor and trying dutifully to coax the ant into one of them. I taught him how to save ants after we had a massive infestation in my kitchen last spring and I spent weeks ruthlessly and obsessively killing as many ants as I could. I tried any number of pesticides and ant traps, but ironically my organic cleaning spray killed them on impact. (Nothing like the power of plants!)
One afternoon in a moment of pause, followed by a touch of panic, I realized that I was not teaching my son any reverence for life. So we started scooping up ants into yogurt cups and walking them outside. “The ant is happy to be home,” I told my son confidently as we watched the bewildered ant crawl into the grass. “They live outside,” I explained. “Not in our house, mama?” he asked for clarification and I nodded in affirmation. For weeks I alternated between saving the ants when my son was looking and killing them when he was not. And then one day, the ant infestation disappeared altogether. It was rather unexpected.
The ants returned this winter though, much to my dismay, and slowly migrated across our apartment into the bathroom. In the midst of our nighttime routine, when I want to put myself to bed more than my son, I taught him how to let the ants swim. Thinking that this was a clever euphemism for flushing them down the toilet, I was quite surprised to discover that ants do actually swim. (Try this only in the safety of your own home, please!) So I switched tactics and decided to work on accepting their presence in my home, trusting that at some point they would once again disappear. And they did.
I’ve learned to welcome the unexpected as a gift from beyond. Seven years ago this summer, I was commissioned as a spiritual director. It was not something I ever imagined in my twenties. Nor was it something I’d ever heard of, for that matter. But that afternoon, having just turned 40, I was brimming with nervous excitement. I stepped outside to breathe in the freshness of June. On either side of my front stoop sat my two flower pots bursting with color: purple delphiniums in the center, tall and lanky and fragrant, with hot pink geraniums circling all around and tiny yellow and white blooms billowing over the side.
Two years later on my way to graduation, I leaned into the same pots and took in the earthiness of the geraniums. When I first started taking classes to be a spiritual director, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Spending my Thursday evenings in the basement of a church for two years was not something I ever wanted to do. I don’t even like going to church dinners. Being one of the youngest in my cohort only made me question my choice more. Had I lived enough? But the idea of listening to people’s stories intrigued me, especially listening in a way that invited them to honor the wisdom within themselves and discover the sacred in their lives. I, too, ached to understand God in new ways.
Becoming a spiritual director taught me to embrace all of me, even the parts that feel confused and hurt and less than, and to trust that wisdom is always present in my vulnerability. The judges in me remind me to lighten up, to have a good laugh. Every part of us has value. And every part of us brings us closer to God.
Karen Skalitzky is one of ten spiritual directors affiliated with Old St. Pat’s. For more information on Spiritual Direction, please contact Tammy Roeder at TammyR@oldstpats. org or 312.798.2350.