I’m not the type of woman who breaks down in tears very often. I certainly don’t get misty-eyed at most romantic movies. And I’ve never seen “Bambi” so, no, I don’t know if I’d cry when Bambi’s mother dies.
But I have noticed that it seems more frequently than not that I will have to wipe my eyes during the middle of a church service. And it could be anything: there might be a lyric in the hymn, or something in one of the readings, or even the sermon, that zings me. I’ve described it as feeling like there’s a sling-shot…and I’m the target for the message coming out of the sling-shot and flying at warp speed, nailing me right between my eyes ricocheting into my heart. Unfortunately, I never have Kleenex with me, so I’m forced to resort to the back of my hand or my fingers to wipe away the tears.
And really: Episcopalians aren’t known for getting emotional over these things. So what’s the matter with me?
The matter with me is, I think, two things. First there’s the realization that what I’m hearing is truly a beautiful message for me as much as anybody. It feels like receiving a love letter from God where he’s reminding me how deep and abiding His love truly is, was, and will be forever. And then there is the other realization, which I’ll call growing pains. Those are the moments when I’m hearing something that snaps me to attention to some details in my life that I’ve been overlooking, or attempting to ignore. Those moments are the ones that don’t make me feel “good” all over, and yet it’s not like I feel “bad” or like a horrible person. More like I’ve been stopped in my tracks and I have to say, “Oh. Oopsah.”
A gospel reading for this past Sunday, from Matthew 6: 24-34, was a little bit like that for me. Jesus seems to be on a roll. He has already given his Beatitudes. Now he’s talking about how “No one can serve two masters…” He goes from that to:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what will you wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
Jesus goes on to talk about the birds not having to reap and sow…yet God cares for them and provides them access to food. And lilies that are beautiful and grow, yet they don’t do any “work” to be adorned so well. And, in the end, Jesus is telling his audience that rather than focus so much on material, tangible, mundane things…instead seek the kingdom of God because God takes care of you. And he closes with this:
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Ping! Wait, she’s still upright. Let’s do that again: Piiinnnngggggg!!!
I kept my tears from flowing…a little. There were a couple that escaped, but I didn’t have a major meltdown. But I could have. Simply because that slice of Biblical advice was coming at a time that I really needed to hear that. I had had a pretty stressful week, trying to produce a cabaret show and deal with egos and off-stage drama that come with theatre. My business has been a little slow lately, which directly affects my personal income. Some close relationships have been strained. And I’ve had other things going on that have made me look closely at my future….read fret about things that may come to be.
And here’s the message: “Stop looking at things that are down –the-line and instead pay attention to the here and now. That’s plenty! You have what you need!” I believe all God wants me or any of us to do is to recognize the abundance we have…both in terms of the food and clothing aspect…but the concerns and cares that we have in our lives. We are not going to get from God more than we’re able to handle (afterall, God learned a lesson when He left Adam and Eve to the abundance of the Garden of Eden, and then they just had to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Clearly, humans could only responsibly handle so much abundance at a time).
Even when we feel overwhelmed by things, the overwhelmedness of the situation is really in our own heads. And even when life seems to be spinning out of control, or we feel as if we’ve been given a spoon to bail ourselves out of a sinking ship, rather than giving in to despair, those are the times to ask for help. And help may come from your family, from a friend, from a relief agency, from an anonymous stranger. But I believe all of it comes from the workings of a God who does not look the other way when needs must be met.
“Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”
Those words from the Gospel of Matthew have been with me since childhood and have become an important phrase for me as I have been walking in closer step with God these past few months. And yes, they’ve made me cry. They are part of the love letter that tells me God’s ready to offer me a drink when I am parched and have no water of my own, so don’t fret the lack of water in the refrigerator. If you have abundance of any kind, be ready to share. And if you are in need of sustenance of any kind, ask. Help is always out there.
As Jesus reminds us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”