Monday, November 12, 2012
Days of Awe
Yesterday was a special Sunday in my journey. It was Sunday, November 11, 2007, that I woke up and heard a booming voice in my head to "Show up!" After a week of being haunted by hymns and a nagging sense that I needed to go back to "that church," the final words came to me in a command that allowed no room for debate or questions or doubt. I got dressed in the best clothes I had in my closet and went with some trepidation and trembling back to "that church". My experience that morning was amazing and powerful. After a lifetime as an Episcopalian, that morning was the first time that I heard that I was a beloved child of God, that I have always been a beloved child of God, and nothing--absolutely nothing--can take that away from me. It was in everything from the prayers to the Scripture to the music and all in that climactic moment when I received the Eucharist, the total acceptance and re-membering me into the Body of Christ. It was awesome.
These memories were foremost in my mind as I now waited in the back of St. John's in my Eucharistic Minister vestments. I looked around the sanctuary, privately giving thanks for the work that God had done to bring me this far along. I never would have thought I would be back in church, let alone in the back of the church in vestments ready to process in and be an active participant in leading the liturgy. I was assigned to read our first lesson yesterday. In the case of St. John's, this was the alternate track from 1 Kings, the story of Elijah and the widow who only has a small amount of meal and a little jug of oil. She is reluctant to give Elijah what little she has because it's all she has for her and her son. She was collecting sticks, and was planning to make a meal for her and her son before they died. As I read it, in my own ears I heard this part:
Eli'jah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth."--1 Kings 17:13-14
The phrase, "Do not be afraid" comes up so often and was an important directive in the beginnings of my spiritual journey. As I read this aloud, I felt a wave go through my body and it felt like an affirmation and a recognition of what it means to take those meager bits and mix them up to make a small offering of self. There will still be meal and still be oil to last through those periods of uncertainty and doubt, but first make an offering of a little cake, and all will be well.
These words then combined themselves with another widow's story, the one of the widow's mite from Mark which was our gospel lesson for the morning. Here, Jesus uses the example of the widow dropping her two coins into the Temple treasury, all that she had, as an example of one who gives from her place of having nothing versus those who have everything.
"Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." --Mark 12: 43b-44
In my head, and in light of my own personal reflection on my journey, these two moments made for a wonderful commentary on what has become of me in these five years. I came back to my tradition, much like St. Paul. I had come to despise the church and seen it as my enemy and oppressor. Then, my road of Damascus moment came in the death of my father. It was his passing that led me, blind and staggering, into the sanctuary where God could drop the scales from my eyes... and unplug my ears to finally hear the message of unconditional Love that had been there the whole time. And, as one who doesn't enjoy having a stock portfolio to make me wealthy (and nervous), I came back as one with little to offer to the church financially. But that wasn't God's interest. Not for me, or for the meaning of the experience of these two widows.
As I read them, these two lessons are about giving of our selves. And no matter how small and insignificant we think we are or we think our gifts are, when we offer our true selves to God, we are giving a gift that is the greatest and wealthiest and the best gift ever.
In these five years on this long, strange trip with God, I have known what it is to give more of myself to God. I have experienced it within my participation with the congregation of St. John's, but especially in my life beyond the confines of a church building with the parents I have encountered it in my work with PFLAG and seeing the hand of God in my massage practice. I have noticed the change in how I approach the world which has come through both my discipline of reading the daily morning office, but also in my fledgling practice of contemplative prayer.
I stand in awe of these changes, knowing full well that my Days of Awe are not really over. God is continuing to work God's purpose out. And I continue to show up to keep marching in the light.