(Nota Bene: I penned this on the bus this morning. The craft I refer to as mine is the craft of preaching.)
I’ve been listening to a set of books that I read when I lived in southern California: The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula LeGuin. The first book in the series tells of how Ged grew from boyhood to manhood and became a wizard. There is a dark feel to the book as Ged goes about his quest of undoing what he had done. And Ged himself has an experience that darkens him and humbles him.
There was a time when I was very much like Ged. I felt myself destined for great things. I knew myself to be talented and gifted at my craft. I was proud and impatient and eager to show my talents and to be admired for them.
Then like Ged I followed my own arrogance into a place in which I had no business being. Although I didn’t unleash a destructive force like Ged, I did unleash something that was partly from within me and that would change me. Ged was plunged into darkness and so was I. His experience was humbling and so was mine. Ged’s experience almost killed him and so did mine. Ged’s experience transformed him and so did mine.
When I first read A Wizard of Earthsea I was like the “before” version of Ged. Reading it then brought fear to my mind. Hearing the book now brings more tears than fear. It’s been many years since that experience but I cannot forget it. Sometimes I get a flashback of that time and taste some of that darkness. Sometimes I see how far I’ve come.
Some have said that I am now a master at my craft. There was a time when I thought being a master of my craft would bring me a deep sense of personal accomplishment. I longed for the recognition and for the praise. I wanted to be called one of the best. When I came through my own battle and darkness I didn’t feel that way about my craft anymore. At that time I thought I would never practice it again. I mourned its loss. I figured there would be no more chances.
During my time of initial healing I learned some humility (though not nearly enough). When I was given a chance to practice the craft again I had learned and matured a little. I finally understood how important it is to use the craft wholly in the service of the Giver of all things. I try to bear this in mind now whenever I’m working the craft. And if someone says, “You are good at your craft,” I acknowledge the compliment. And I remember the enduring truth: The craft serves the Creator. The craft serves the Incarnate One. The craft serves the Spirit–even as I do. In the economy of this craft there is no room for empty arrogance. A lesson which (like Ged) I’ve learned the hard way.