When I went to my first Arapaho Sun Dance it was at the invitation of a good friend. As did all the families participating, her clan had constructed a shelter on the grounds where this sacred ritual would take place. It was a big open tent with a roof of tarps and blankets thrown over a frame made of lodge poles. I’ll never forget what was inside. They had brought beds, dressers, a huge dining room table and even some sort of stove on which they were preparing the feast. They had made a real home away from home.
I would never have thought of putting my furniture in the back of a pickup and taking it with me camping. To my friend, descendant of nomads, this seemed the most natural thing in the world. After all, what’s the point of owning something if it can’t be carried with you from one place to another? “You have to be flexible,” she told me gravely, “not chained to your house by your stuff.”
When Francis of Assisi laid his luxurious clothing at the feet of his bishop, renounced his family’s wealth and land, and became a poor friar, he chose to be free of all encumbrances except one, his commitment to Christ. His vow of poverty made it possible for him to answer whenever God called him and to go where he was led.
What would it be like to be a spiritual nomad, following the wanderings of the Spirit like the Arapaho Nation once followed the bison herds? We could go where we were called, showing up with hands empty and ready for helping, embracing, teaching and learning.
God, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
–Prayer attributed to St. Francis
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. She will soon manage a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations’ creative ministries.