Many of my readers and my dear friends know that in the last year I have been grappling with a strong sense of call. A call to ministry that does not surprise me, yet scares the living daylights out of me. I wish I could write here that I eloquently praised God for this call, but to say that I did would only be a big, fat, ugly lie. I am a bit ashamed to admit that when I began feeling this strong sense of call a year ago I reacted like a terrible toddler. I did not cry out in praise, no, I cried out in grief. I mourned the loss of my big plans and ambitions. Rather than open my heart and hands with joy I curled my hands into tight little fists and tried to make my heart as small and hidden as possible. When I finally faced the reality of what God was calling me to, and released my hands and just a bit of my heart I resigned myself to accepting my fate. I felt as if my life was over, and if we are getting technical–my old life was coming to an end but only to be redeemed by God’s love with the offering of a beautiful new life, living into God’s plans for me. I uttered an “Okay” through gritted teeth and a whole mess of tears.
Since that utterance, nearly a year ago, I have been on a journey. A journey which has taken me to all sorts of new and beautiful places, introduced me to God, this world and so many of God’s beautiful children. This journey has led me places that I never thought I would go; spiritually, physically and emotionally. I have faced some of my biggest fears, been overwhelmed by the pure joy of freely given love, been betrayed and hurt by people I care so deeply for, tasted and seen the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. This last year has been one of great struggle, grief, fear, beauty, courage, love and joy. This last year has been one of discovery, adventure and learning to believe. This year will forever be marked as special in my life. It is the year that I have recognized how God saves me over and over again.
I was in a really dark place when I uttered “Okay.” I was severely disenchanted with the church; I had seen the hurts the church had inflicted on people I loved, I had witnessed the hypocrisy of the church, I had experienced the pain that comes when the church plays for power rather than love. I had lost hope in the church. Until, I wandered into an Episcopal church tucked into the corner of St. Andrews on a Friday morning in June. I still remember walking up to that front door and before opening it looking up to heaven and offering up a silent prayer of “Please let these people be welcoming.” When I opened the door I was met face to face with Christ. Her name is Sybil, she was petite, white haired and wore purple eyeshadow. She looked at me, welcomed me in, handed me a service outline and when I told her I was Presbyterian she simply stated “Oh that doesn’t matter” and welcomed me to the table. I saw Christ in Sybil and I was invited to share bread and wine. Sybil and the congregation of that Episcopal church saved me and restored my hope in the church.
I mentioned above that this is the year I have begun to recognize how God saves me. I know God has saved me throughout my life, constantly reaching into the mess I make for myself and pulling me out to place me back on the right path. I think Nadia Bolz-Weber describes it best: “God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over” (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 174). This year I have begun to pay attention to when I have dug a nice little grave for myself and when God has reached in and picked me up out of that grave. If I think about my life I can pinpoint so many of these moments, thanks be to God! To believe in a God that will not stop reaching in and yanking me out of the grave I dig for myself, even when I tell God to buzz off (I have actually said this in with much nastier words) is incredible.
To worship a God who continually runs after me, welcomes me home with a big embrace and loves me despite all the nasty things I do is a wonderful gift. This season of Lent is challenging me and my faith in a number of different ways. God is asking me to trust when all I want to do is rely on myself (we all know how that works out for me). God is asking me to lay down my life and let God fully in when all I want is to let God have only a little bit of my heart. Giving my life to God is an everyday practice. Giving God everything that I have is so difficult but it is what we are all called to do. I guess I, like everyone else, have an incredibly difficult time believing that someone could love me as much and as well as God does. So as we make our way to the cross this season, I am trying to bare my heart and soul to God and myself, to open up my closed hands and heart, to trust in God’s love and promises and to believe that when God calls God will provide and go with me.
Wherever you are on your own journey, I hope that you recognize where God is reaching into your mess and pulling you out. I pray that you recognize Christ in the people who are in your life and see how God is working through them to help you. I pray you all meet, get to know and love your own Sybil and I pray that you are a Sybil to someone. As we make our way to the cross let’s be honest, let’s be courageous, let’s give all we have, and let’s love with all of our hearts our wonderful God and our neighbors.
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Peace, Joy, Blessings and All My Love,
*The woman in the picture is Sybil. She is truly a gem!