Growth within me, growth over me, let all around me be growth

It’s hymn #791 in Wonder, love, and praise, but with the word “growth”. If you’re confused, that’s okay, I’m just a cradle Episcopalian trying to make a joke. And, confusing, or maybe wondrous, are words I would use to describe the growth in me in the first four months, or about half, of the DioCal Episcopal Service Corps intern program year.

Before coming out to California, friends and mentors of mine back home were so excited for me and how I would be a “completely different person” at the end of the service year. I believed them, and was excited for the change that was to come, but acknowledged with them that I had no idea what things about me were going to change. 

At this stage, I can look at who I am now and who I was when I left Maryland and note differences. Some are quite concrete; I (pretty much) buy only what I need at the grocery store, because in my own personal efforts to live intentionally, I’m trying really hard to throw no food away (and, doing this is fairly easy when one is budgeting on an intern stipend — even a generous one). I now make a point to give money to a homeless person at least once a week, just as I have always made sure I have cash on me when I go to church. 

And just as I typed those two things out, I thought to myself, “Wow Sara, you have your own personal rule of life in practice. Imagine how much more intentional you could be if you wrote it out!” which immediately prompted the excuse “but then you’d have to hold yourself to it that much more, and living intentionally, in community and as an individual, is hard.” But that’s another blog post for another week.

So back to growth. The intangible changes I’ve noticed myself are much harder to put into words. I’ve started asking bigger questions about myself than ever before. I wonder about where I might be going, in many senses of the word. I wonder about my place in the church, both now, and in the future. I wonder about who I am, and what it means to me that certain parts of my identity and social location are what they are. I wonder with myself in a journal, with others in late night text conversations or phone calls, and on serene walks around Grace Cathedral. One afternoon, I got to wonder with former presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori over coffee, an unexpected opportunity in being a DioCal intern this year.

I sit with these big questions and ideas, not always in a way that is looking for some kind of answer or output. Which is good. I need to remind myself sometimes of that last part — not every quiet time of meditation or discernment related conversation needs to have a conclusion, and that’s okay. But a mentor of mine once said “discernment and procrastination should not be used interchangeably,” and I think that is an important dichotomy to monitor. So I do try to check myself for a balance there — that I’m continuing to sit with the things that need more thought, and that I’m noting when a question has been answered, even when those answers come through unconventional channels, like the conversation and prayer with a woman that stemmed from a spur of the moment decision my roommate and I made to give food meant for the intern house to the homeless people we pass by on our walk to BART.

So I think even though my time here has doubled since my last blog post, this one wraps up kind of like my first one. Four months in, I still have more questions than answers (and I think I’ll always have more questions than answers — that might be a part of life — but again, that’s another blog post for another week). But they’re different questions now, and I have answers to some of the questions I had been discerning around the publishing of my first blog post. I now have ideas about where I’ll be headed when I leave this program in six more months. I’ve gotten to experience things that, four months ago, I had no idea I would have the opportunity to do, but have helped me confirm discerned answers (last week, for instance, I got to give my very first sermon — at Grace Cathedral).

The framework of the second half of this program and a few months beyond that is starting to take shape in really exciting ways. Picture a new house being built — the foundation has been laid and the wood frames are up, so there’s a good idea of what rooms will go where, but you can’t totally see it all yet, and there’s still time for the blueprint to be changed. I won’t know what it’ll all look like in full until it’s actually happening, whatever that “it” may be (parts of this program, my summer, and the school year after that), and that’s a reality that the 12-color-coded-calendar planner of a person in me doesn’t love, but is growing comfortable with (slow and arduous it may be, that growth is happening). It’s not easy, but this unparalleled, intangible growth is the most rewarding kind, of that, I’m sure.