Destruct and construct

What makes letting go so hard for me?

Too often in my life I’ve chosen to hang onto things too long.  Material things as well as thoughts and ideas and even jobs.

On my silent retreat two weeks ago, I saw examples of destruction and construction, saw how letting go – to the point of actual destruction – could be positive.

That sent me on a tangent of considering (again) the paradox of seeming opposites.

Richard Rohr talked about just that in his daily meditation today:

 

“Paradox” comes from two Greek words: para doksos, meaning beyond the teaching or beyond the opinion. A paradox emerges when you’ve started to reconcile seeming contradictions, consciously or unconsciously. Paradox is the ability to live with contradictions without making them mutually exclusive, realizing they can often be both/and instead of either/or. G. K. Chesterton said that “a paradox is often a truth standing on its head to get our attention”!

Yes, at Sacred Heart in Cullman, that paradoxical truth did stand on its head and get my attention.

Last year, I felt the shift of energy at the monastery and retreat center.  I could feel an ending. And I could only see a part of the new construction.  I could envision the destruction.  I grieved the shifting of the energy from the buildings that had been a part of meaningful retreat experiences for me.

Before I left to go to a silent retreat there this year, I wondered what the new space would feel like for me.  Would it have the good energy that I associated with the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center?  What would the grounds be like without Mary and Joseph Halls?

Would I still like the place?

IMG_6236

Mary and Joseph Halls come down

Well, as fate would have it, Mary and Joseph Halls were in the process of destruction when I arrived.

I had been hoping their destruction would be completed, that the rubble would be cleared away, that I would only see a blank space where the yoga room, Sister Mary’s massage room, Sister Adrian’s pottery studio, our centering prayer room, and the dining hall had once stood.

But no, I could see where each of those rooms once were, though the walls had started to be knocked down.  I worried that the destruction would grieve the nuns, most of whom were in their 70s and 80s and who had seen the buildings in their heyday when college students lived in them – or they themselves had lived in them.

I found out, however, that the nuns were happy with the changes, content with the destruction, that they realized the buildings’ time was over, that they enjoyed the new spaces that construction brought them.

And on the final days of my retreat, when the crews started at 6:30 in the morning with their destruction, I saw the rubble of Mary Hall driven off in big trucks and the destruction of Joseph Hall, which became a pile of rubble.

No nuns went out to watch.

They were content with the changes, with the destruction and construction happening all around them.

And I enjoyed the new energy of the construction, of Mary and Joseph Houses, where the energy was even better than at the old Mary and Joseph Halls.

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Joseph House, part of the new section of the Benedictine Sisters Retreat Center

You see, it was time for change.

And the change was good.

And those lessons are good for an old hang-on-to-things kind of person like me.

Things change.  Life moves forward.  Sometimes old needs to be replaced by new.

I’m learning to live with contradictions.

And to realize that destruction and construction can both be good – and necessary.

Mary Hall is gone and Joseph Hall is rubble.  But now Otillia Hall has a nice view of the lake.

Mary Hall is gone and Joseph Hall is rubble. But now Otillia Hall has a nice view of the lake.

The new and the old.  On the left, the new chapel stands in front of the old chapel.

The new and the old. On the left, the new chapel stands in front of the old chapel.

View of the new dining hall and individual retreat rooms and new retreat center.  But the old chapel is still the focal point.

Construction is still in progress.  A view up the hill of the new dining hall and individual retreat rooms and new retreat center. But the old chapel is still the focal point.

 

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