Learning in Community, Expectations
“The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food.” Dean Ornish
We know we learn about ourselves, others, and God in community. We find the Christ within ourselves when we see it in others and that love is reflected back to us. We learn how to get out of our own world which can become stifling by reaching out to others. We learn about our defects and sins by first seeing them in others and being repulsed by them. Finally, we realize they are also in ourselves. We also learn about our gifts as we admire those gifts in others and one day realize they may also be in us.
In a recent writing by Bill Shiflett from Church of the Saviour1 we learned some more about ourselves in relationship to our expectations of others. Shiflett believes that our expectations of others may at times be our own personal expectations that we are projecting on others thereby making that person responsible for something that is really in or needed ourselves. My experience is this can be an easy trap for parents and even sometimes grandparents. What we are hoping that child will do is really something that we want to do. This rang true to me many years ago when I was talking to a spiritual friend, Peggy Hays, and telling her about something I was hoping one of my children would do. Whenever we talked about it, she would always say, “What is that you want to do?” It took me years to figure this out.
What does this mean in spiritual direction? Many people come for spiritual direction because they are having difficulty with the clergy of their church or with another spiritual friend and this is interfering with their own spirituality. They have expectations of the clergy and their friends which is not being fulfilled. Certainly, there are times when these expectations are realistic and represent ministry that the clergy specifically are called to do. My experience, however, is that it is always important to look and see if we are making someone responsible for something that is really an expectation or a calling or a need for ourselves.
I remember a longtime priest my husband and I dearly loved. We moved away and lost connection with the church because we could not find a relationship with similar clergy in our new town. We had expectations that our new priest would be similar to the one to which we were so close.
We do indeed need a community to connect to God, but the paradox is that our connection to God should not be dependent on our relationship with someone else.
Bill Shiflett,”Assumptions,” Daily Quote, July 18, Inwardoutward.org, Church of the Saviour.