Parque Central

Still
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I am tired. Really, really tired.

Lately, in my ministry with Christian Reformed World Missions, I’ve been thinking about what spiritual formation looks like in really hard places.

I’ve talked with others about what the Jesuits meant by exploring a “spirituality on the run.” I have read that Ignation spirituality required only 15 minutes a day for reflection so the Jesuits would remain deeply engaged in the world.

As I sat down this morning to do some journaling, my mind raced back to the leadership summit I just attended in San José, Costa Rica, with my colleagues. What an incredible blessing my wife, Marilyn, and I have to rub shoulders with such amazing people who are engaged so deeply with the world in Central America.

Today I’m relaxing on a bench in Parque Central in Antigua, Guatemala, on a two-day break for writing and reflection. It’s one of the loveliest central parks in all of Latin America. I became quickly attentive to the restlessness of my soul against this backdrop of beauty and sweetness.

A majestic fountain lies at the center, and around it revolves all activity in the park. European and U.S. tourists mingle with indigenous women selling their cosas tipicas (typical things). Shoe-shine boys offer their services with a smile. Lovers peer into each other’s eyes. Children run and jump while the breeze glistens their faces with mist from the fountain. Teenagers in colorful uniforms pass through on their way to school. This morning, at this moment, all is well with the world in Parque Central.

Why do I seldom find these kinds of sweet, sacred centering times in my life? Why is it that I have figured out so intricately the “running” part of Jesuit spirituality but have so poorly lived out the “spirituality” part?

The key here, of course, is not found in momentary escape from the noisy world. Saint Bonaventure (1221-1274) wrote that God is “within all things, but not enclosed; outside all things, but not excluded; above all things, but not aloof; below all things, but not debased.” He spoke of God as one “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” He declared that “the origin, magnitude, multitude, beauty, fullness, activity, and order of all created things” are the very “footprints and fingerprints” of God.

Bonaventure saw the whole world as the Parque Central I find myself sitting in right now!

What would it look like if I could learn to live out the implications of that theological premise? What would it mean for leaders in missional communities around the world who need a spirituality that can sustain them amid seemingly insurmountable pain and hardship?

W.H. Auden animates our work with his words: “I know nothing, except what everyone knows—if there when Grace dances, I should dance.” The truth, of course, is that grace is always dancing, oftentimes most artfully in the very places my friends currently find themselves.

The late missiologist and theologian Orlando Costas wrote, “With Jesus there came a fundamental shift in the location of salvation: the center was moved to the periphery. . . . The fact that Jesus wrought salvation outside the Holy City does not mean that we have now a new salvific center but, rather, a permanent, moving center in the periphery of life.”

Maybe that’s what “spirituality on the run” looks like: a beautiful fountain in a parque central that moves wherever I go if only I can cultivate the awareness to live into it.

For now, at least, I am content to sit here on this bench in this particular parque central and pray for my friends in the hard places—that they too might dance today, that they too might experience the life-giving fountain of God’s presence in all places at all times.

About the Author

Rev. Joel Van Dyke serves in Guatemala City with Christian Reformed World Missions. He currently directs the Estrategía de Transformación, which nurtures missional communities of grassroots leaders in Central America and the Caribbean.

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Comments

Hi Joel: Thanks; I needed that reminder.
My husband and I just returned from 2 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala with a partnership ministry team for the Luke Society. We too have sat by that interesting fountain. We are considering retiring next year and being able to spend more time in Guatemala. You remind me what a gift it is to rub shoulders with those so active in ministry here. We're wondering what we will be called to "do" here. You remind me that "being" in the presence of God is the key. I will carry those images of fountains and dancing and resting with me. Gracias.
Bendiciones,
Ann

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