In which she ponders the mystery of holy joy.

A few months ago I read this piece on impostor syndrome and thought, I can really relate to that. Sometimes the stuff people tell me they appreciate or admire about my work, my ministry, whatever, is stuff I really worked hard on; but sometimes, too, it’s stuff that came so easily to me that my reaction is, “what, THAT?”  It’s uncomfortable to be complimented or praised for some of the things I do, because they are just doing what I enjoy doing and didn’t feel that hard. (This happens most with things involving kids, story, arts and crafts, or all of the above.)

Richards writes, “When we have a skill or talent that has come naturally we tend to discount its value. Why is that? Well, we often hesitate to believe that what’s natural, maybe even easy for us, can offer any value to the world.” Whereas in fact, the things that come easily to us – and, perhaps, not so easily to others – may be our particular gift to share with the world. That was a helpful point for me.

And then a couple of weeks ago, as part of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist’s Lenten “Growing a Rule of Life” study and reflection series, I read Brother Jonathan Maury’s reflection on nurturing oneself: “It is often the case when any of us are attempting to form or to grow or to realize anew a Rule of Life that there may be a temptation to think only in ‘spiritual’ terms. And this would be very wrong because the truth of it is that a life in Christ is holistic.” Maury says, the things that give you joy, that make you feel whole and grounded – those are practices that should be part of your Rule of Life, of your care and cultivation of your self.

I say, readily and often, that doing the things you were made to do is part of your spirituality, even a sort of prayer. But I’m struggling a bit with incorporating that myself, feeling it deeply. I love to make things. Spending half and hour or – as I hope to this morning, when I get off the computer – a couple of hours just *making stuff* leaves me feeling relaxed, happy, fulfilled. And yet to tell myself that that is part of my spiritual life, that being in that lovely experimental wordless space of playing and creating is in fact a sort of prayer, feels like cheating. Because it was easy. It was just doing what I enjoy. It didn’t feel hard. (And prayer and spirituality are supposed to be hard, right? Right?)  See where I’m going here? Is there such thing as “impostor spirituality”?

I’m writing this post to work through these thoughts and offer myself the idea of naming that creative space and the feeling it elicits in me as a kind of holy joy. It doesn’t need a pious frame to make it part of my life in God; it already is that, because it’s doing what I was made to do, and it refreshes me and gives me joy.

 

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