Monday, October 22, 2018

When Inspiration Becomes Uncomfortable

Have you ever been to a conference that really grabs you? The event moves your heart, to the point where you keep nodding your head yes, yes, yes, as you hear the talks and panel discussions? 

Over the weekend, I was grateful to attend this very type of event. At the Servi Institute's inaugural conference, The Urban Village: From Cloud-Castles to Blueprints, I listened to some amazing people speak about their service to the poor, their passion for classical education and the liberal arts, and the ways in which they strive for holiness as they work in the professional world. The conversations were robust, and after the first evening session of the conference, I did not get home until almost eleven because the profound discussions kept rollicking along. I was so excited about it all that I lay in bed awake, enthused about the future of our city and our country.

Yet, as I drove home from the conference at its close the next day, I grew uncomfortable. I began to realize that I couldn't just stick the thoughts and discussions of the weekend into a file of happy memories and leave them there. Instead, I became aware that I needed to do something. Yet, even though I've long been a "doer," thinking about how I need to help enact change in the community, city, and world is an uncomfortable thought. 

This weekend showed me in a new way that people, discussions, and talks which inspire are supposed to move us; to breathe life into us, if you want to hearken back to the Latin inspirare. Inspirational words are not necessarily going to make us all warm, cozy, and comfortable as the stereotypical "inspirational movie" tends to do. In fact, I will venture to say that inspiration will-at some point-be uncomfortable. Inspiration is not meant to  make us stagnant. It is not supposed to push us further into our comfy couches. Instead, inspiration should move us to action. It should spur us on to change our lives and help transform the world. This act of changing and transformation is sometimes painful and difficult.

The lessons I learned last weekend are not supposed to stay on my pad of conference notes. No, these ideas and principles need to be brought into action. Right there in the name of the conference-From Cloud-Castles to Blueprints-is the reminder that we need to develop actual plans to make beautiful ideals a reality. We can no longer sit in the comfortably vague statements of "those ideas are so inspiring, I want to happily sit with those thoughts awhile" to the point where we never do anything.
Enjoying my pan dulce and pondering what I should put on the "idea card."
How many times have we been to a parish mission, a conference of any kind, a spiritual retreat, or read a great book and been "inspired," but then do absolutely nothing about it? We leave the mission, conference, or retreat and after a week or two of having a "spiritual high," slip back into our old habits and lifestyles. We put the book back on the shelf and don't even think about concrete ways we can change our lives or ways of looking at the world.

You know what is helpful in avoiding the all-too-common pitfalls of inaction? The accountability found in community. It is very easy to avoid making solid changes in our lives if no one else knows about the lofty goals we created during spurts of inspiration. However, when other people-people we know, people we trust-are here to keep us accountable, everything changes. If I had walked out of the conference without knowing a soul, it would be easy for me to do nothing-to not follow through on my own ideas or the ideas presented by others. However, we began the conference by sitting together at the same tables, introducing ourselves to each other. All throughout the conference we were talking, sharing ideas, and making connections. In all of this community, accountability and support can be found. The idea of making alterations in my own life is uncomfortable, even a bit scary at times. But, this seemingly-daunting task is made all the more bearable knowing that a community of other people is doing similar things, and that we can support and encourage each other along the way as we bring our "cloud-castles" into our city. 

Whether you are preparing to take high schoolers to a youth conference, embarking on a religious retreat, or reading an inspirational book, I encourage you to find-or create-a supportive community. Gather people who can all help each other act on the profound inspirations that come to them. Not only will this help us all get off of our couches and get things done, but it will help us create the thriving, caring, interconnected communities of men and women that our world so desperately needs.

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