I love drawing/praying my yearly gratitude turkey. The turkey is a visual journal of my life in the past twelve months.
What I notice about my life in the past year is my tendency to be alone. This is not all bad. Keeping one’s own company and learning to cultivate the gifts of solitude is a skill, a skill I lacked as a young adult. Now I have the tendency to spend too much time alone. Reading, drawing, praying, studying, writing, playing Scrabble, hanging out on the computer keep me busy for hours.
Being alone is easier than being with other people. My opinions go unchallenged. I can be spiritual in my own way without the annoying trappings of a church and without people who bother me. I can eat what I want and do what I want. I’m the monarch of my self-contained little kingdom. On the down side: My opinions go unchallenged. I can eat what I want and do what I want. My entitlement grows and MY wants and needs become paramount. My solitude turns to isolation.
What I also notice about my life is my huge need for community–as messy and inconvenient as it sometimes is. This year my turkey is dressed with the groups in my life who make my life richer and who keep my thinking from running amok or growing more distorted. These communities remind me that I am both spiritual AND religious. Whether secular or sacred, these groups offer me “religious” frameworks for opening my eyes and staying in touch with reality. Lillian Daniel in a 2011 Huffington Post article says it well:
“Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.”
I invented none of the groups on my turkey, but I am immensely grateful to be part of them. Thanks be to God. Happy Thanksgiving.