Adventures in Map-Making: Inner Compass

Inner CompassI don’t talk about my faith very often here, although it’s very important to me. I am not opposed to talking about it, and I love reading what others write about their faith. It’s just that my faith is something that’s deep in my bones, something that doesn’t always lend itself to language. And I guess also I am just very cognizant that we’re all different, and we all have our own experience–it’s wonderful that my faith practice works for me, but I would never want anyone to think that I presume it would or should work in just the same way for them. It’s so important to me that everyone’s values be respected here, and my greatest hope is just that you come away from this space feeling love–that’s what it’s all about.

All that said, this is my faith in visual form. I have been participating in an Ignatian group at my church this year, and it’s been so amazing. I love the concrete practicality of this approach to faith, and the way it prizes the ordinary and the everyday. We’ve been working these past few months on our spiritual autobiographies. They can take any form at all (and it was incredible to share them–we all made such different and unique things!), but when someone mentioned a map, my ears perked up. I love maps so much, so I knew this was the way to go for me. I have been playing with watercolors and charcoal and colored pencils for weeks now, and today I finished my map. It’s a story of coming home. It’s a story of finding comfort and depth in unexpected places. It’s a story of being guided toward good things without even realizing it. It’s a story of an inner compass, one that’s always been with me, and one that always will.

Inner CompassThis story is about being raised in a place of love and comfort, a place fragrant with the faith of my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them.

Inner CompassIt’s about eventually feeling stifled by all that heavy air of mystery and tradition, and wondering if there might be something better across the sea. It’s about being welcomed into a place so completely different that it could not fail to thrill a wide-eyed girl.

Inner CompassIt’s about running wild with newness in those early years, getting very involved in all the goings-on and the running of things, scoffing at the tradition left behind as stiff and dry. It’s about finding something deeply personal and deeply meaningful. But it’s also about slowly reaching a state of disillusionment and frustration with language that does not seem to mean what it once did. It’s about feeling disconnected from something held dear for many years. It’s about being in a desert and being frightened by that.

Inner CompassIt’s about recognizing that maybe, just maybe, all that tradition and frippery left across the sea had a more profound meaning than I ever imagined. It’s about being homesick and being far, far from home. It’s about having a sense of “from” but not a sense of “to.” It’s about pushing a rickety boat with tattered sails into a stormy sea.

Inner CompassIt’s about close calls with rocks in the sea and dragons under the waves. It’s about not being able to see the shore. It’s about being deeply unsure of self, of future, of present, of past.

Inner CompassIt’s about unexpectedly landing in a place of peace and safety, and exhaling in tranquility for the first time in years. It’s about returning to a place I never knew I would, and finding that no one expected me to prove myself. It’s about discovering that the deeply personal and the deeply meaningful not only crossed the sea with me, but also grew here indigenously, with roots thick and strong, long before even my great-great-grandparents were a twinkle in anyone’s eye. It’s about equally unexpectedly, and totally improbably, meeting someone with his own story and his own faith to walk beside me. It’s about crossing over still waters and learning not to fear the journey anymore.

Inner CompassIt’s about coming home. It’s about realizing that home was in my heart all along. It’s about realizing that my inner compass never led me astray, and that I was, I am, I will be, exactly where I need to be.

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