Last year in preparation for a pilgrimage to Italy, I was reading much about Francis of Assisi. This man later named a saint has been adopted by both Protestant and Catholics alike. His love of Creation and ability to see the Face of the Holy in even the smallest of creatures is an inspiration. I thought I had read nearly every story about this beloved man. But this week a new story came to me by way of the online Lenten retreat I have been participating in with artist and wise woman Jan Richardson.
The story goes like this….Francis and one of his fellow brothers, Masseo, were taking a journey and come to a crossroads. It is not easily understood which is the route they should take. Saint Francis then instructs Brother Masseo to take up his place at the center where the roads cross and to spin himself around…..and around…..and around. Of course, Masseo becomes dizzy and finally falls to the ground. St.Francis and the brother then set off on their journey in the direction that Masseo had fallen.
Like many of the stories of Francis, there is a lightheartedness and even humor to them. I love this about this holy man. It is a reminder to me to take myself and this life I lead a little less seriously. What a way to make decisions…..simply spin yourself around till you land in some direction….whichever way you land could work! (Or better yet, get someone else to do it for you.) Doesn’t it make you smile?
Reading this story made me think of the many ways we make decisions. Some people make important decisions through logic, through the process of thinking things through from beginning to end, weighing all the odds. Others trust their feelings,’listening’ to their gut for what seems like the way to move on any particular path. When our sons were younger we often taught them to make a list of pros and cons of any situation and weigh the possible outcomes before proceeding. Some folks I know use visualization of imagined outcomes to make decisions. Still others require a talking out with another person or group of people of the situation at hand, until they can walk their way into next steps.
Most people in faith communities trust in time spent in meditation and prayer that gives birth to a deep knowing that the steps being considered are being drawn out by Mystery. We often call this discernment. It is a word that has, in my opinion, lost some of its power over the last years. Co-opted by the business world the Unseen participant in the process of true discernment is often not considered.
But also, as people of faith, we can trust in the deep knowing that no matter the process we use for moving along life’s often circuitous path, the Holy is a constant companion. Perhaps this is what Francis was emphasizing to Masseo as he urged him to spin. Perhaps it didn’t make much difference to Francis which way Masseo fell at the crossroads. In his way of walking in the world, the Holy was on and in the path no matter which road was taken.
The fact of the matter is that we probably need all the varied ways we have for making life’s decisions. If we have at the table a diversity of thinkers, feelers, left-brained and right-brained, gut and head people, we are most likely to come to a better decision, whatever the the path to be taken. It might also take a fair amount of spinning. But somehow I am also comforted by the notion that whatever the decision making process, there is also an Unseen partner at the table whose grace holds whichever way the journey takes. That even if the next step comes after spinning and falling down, we are all held by a goodness we continue to try to imagine and live into.
For all the decisions…..and the discernments of this day, may it be so. Blessed be.