One Day I Finally Knew What I Had to Do…

Near a remote monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky called Gethsemani, I sat in the living room of the nun who managed the guest house down the road as she read me this poem. I had no idea what it meant at the time. In what I refer to as my mass Exodus moment, I had just left a life of being a rock star and the marriage that came with it. I had exchanged a role in which I got to play a goddess with crunchy guitars, with a private wind machine and spotlights, for a life of waiting tables at a pasta restaurant in downtown Nashville. Only four blocks away from where I had played to 15,000 people on the river at a summer festival and just four months later I was asking people on a nightly basis whether they wanted ranch, blue cheese, thousand island or balsamic vinaigrette with their endless salad and butter soaked rolls. Yet, somehow, I felt safe. When the nun asked me what I wanted, I simply said, “I want to be clean.” That’s when she read me this poem.

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,

Though the voices around you

Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚

Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”

Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,

Though the wind pried
With its stingers
At the very foundations‚

Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen

Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,

The stars began to burn

Through the sheets of clouds,

And there was a new voice,

Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚

Determined to save
The only life you could save.

-Mary Oliver, The Journey


A wild night had fallen upon me that lasted eleven years. My mentor tells me that God works in the form of a four letter word: S-L-O-W. There simply are no shortcuts on the path of the soul’s journey and that is okay. The soul’s calling may be urgent, but it is not in a hurry.

She read another poem, as if to say, read this anytime you have trouble locating your navigation point. and I suppose I have navigated between these two poems and a spiritual journey as I have sought to claim the truth within me and live it out in the world, that thing in my spirit that keeps tugging at me, saying, “let me live.”

We have not come here to take prisoners
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
to hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run my dear, From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings,
Run like hell, my dear,
From anyone likely to put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience of our house
And shout to our reason
“Oh please, oh please
come out and play.”
For we have not come here to take prisoners,
Or to confine our wondrous spirits
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
our divine courage, freedom, and Light!

I studied theology and got my M.Div. during those eleven years and became an ordained minister, drawn to the mysteries of the sacred life, I am a pastor who seeks out creative expressions of the soul’s life in the world.  A theology professor, after spending years training us up in the technical aspects of the church, God, Jesus and the history of how it all got to where it is today, finally said, with a sigh, “after everything is done, the most important thing is poetry.”

To quote a line from one of my songs based on the life of one courageous woman prophet warrior, Deborah, from the hidden pages of the Bible, “Your life is poetry and every time you love, you set the hurt of the world free.”

What sacred and tender vision is calling out to you today? What is keeping you from answering it?

One day you finally knew what you had to do….

May you have the courage to live it out, just for today, your soul’s love sonnet to the world.







Posted by

Speaker, Author, Musician, Pastor, Nature Lover. Co-Founder of the Social Enterprise: Dreamweave: Renew Lives, Recyle Products;

6 thoughts on “One Day I Finally Knew What I Had to Do…

  1. Your riveting blog today, my dear, IS poetry. A Writer/Poet/English teacher friend of mine was in a heated argument with our tennis coach not long ago. Upon huffing off the court, she turned and yelled to him…”So you think you can live without poetry, do you? Just try and living your life without poetry and see what you get!” Thank you, Sherry, for sharing with your readers what the Nun said…and read.


  2. Thank you Sherry. I’m flying into Nashville tonight to visit with my daughter whom I’d love you to meet one day along with my oldest step daughter. But I will share this beautifully written blog with her. Thank you for inspiring me to always be courageous. Blessings to you. xo – susan stein


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