I immigrated to Canada when I was just 20. I am no longer the girl I was when I left my family nearly 55 years ago, a naïve young woman who was open to adventure and discovery. With the exception of a dose of homesickness on my first New Year’s here, I barely looked back over my shoulder. I expected to return to the country where I was raised, but knew I wasn’t going to live there again.
In ideal circumstances, families prepare us to go out into the world; this is something we are supposed to do. We will go home to visit, but not necessarily to stay.
On one level, this is what happened to me. I was invited to Canada, my family let me go, and I came. Everything that has happened in my life since then has occurred because I took that action. I could say that what I did was a random decision, but I am a Christian and have a relationship with Jesus. I look at my life’s journey through that lens of faith.
I don’t think I was aware that God was at work in my life when I immigrated to Canada. To leave home is to take a risk – my family, friends and job provided a familiar landscape. At the same time, I would be living in Canada with a couple who had been part of my parents’ lives for many years. Whether I understood it or not, they provided me with a safety net during those first months in a strange country.
I think sometimes God takes us away from what is familiar so that we will discover who we really are. My friends also showed me a different landscape. They were agnostic and took me to a Unitarian church. For the first time, I questioned whether the God I believed in really existed. Gradually I came to the realization that He did. I now owned the faith I had inherited.
My faith deepened when I moved to Toronto. At the same time, my umbilical cord with my family was broken. However, I still needed the kind of support they had provided. I joined a group for young adults at a local church, made friends in other areas of my life, and became part of a community. Slowly I began to put down roots.
These roots were fed and watered in the same church for over 45 years. Then I became aware of a strange restlessness. A voice inside me seemed to be saying, “It’s time to explore my world beyond the pew.” It was an invitation.
At first, I resisted. I felt secure and couldn’t believe God wanted me to move on. When I immigrated to Canada, I knew where I was going. This time I didn’t know my destination. I also didn’t know who would provide me with a safety net. But I had to be willing to listen to the voice that now seemed to be saying, “Take the first step and I will show you.”
As I ventured outside familiar territory, I discovered God’s world could look very different depending on which direction I took. On a surprisingly warm Sunday in November, I rode the ferry to St. Andrew-by-the-Lake on Toronto Island. As I left the church that morning, the steps were coated with ladybugs. I had just spent an hour with people who were really pleased to see me. As I stepped outside the door, one of them said, “Do come back again.” I didn’t know it at the time, but I had found my new safety net.
I moved outside the pew when I joined Contemplative Fire. The worship is experiential and uses metaphor to illustrate the scripture reading of the day, which engages me. This monastic, dispersed community has a rhythm of life rooted in prayer, study and action. As I meet with other members to meditate, learn, and then go out into the world, I realize I am traveling on an inner journey. I am not the person I was when I first left the church to which I belonged seven years ago. The journey is not over yet. I continue to evolve.