I just browsed today's headlines:
Wife, 3 others slain hours before divorce case
Four shot, 1 dead at Calif. church camp
Deputy dies after shootout in N.C. woods
Interview with 11-year old terrorist
Last week I printed off an article by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press titled, "Has America become numb to tragedy?" He asks the question, "What is happening in the American psyche that prevents people from defusing their own anguish and rage before they end the lives of others? Why are we killing each other?"
"Forty-three years and countless reams of research and lost loved ones later [after the tragedy at the University of Texas when Charles Whitman shot and killed 16 people], we have not figured it out."
War. The economy. Divorce. Unemployment. Debt. Anger. Hurt. Disappointment. Loss.
This is the place where I find many of my friends - both in and outside of the church. And I have to ask myself a question:
As a minister of Jesus, what do I have to offer?
This past weekend our friends and mentors Chuck and Sally came to teach us the way of the contemplative life. On Friday evening, we heard how the practice of silence and "ruminating" on a passage of scripture would nourish our souls. (As I write I recall Chuck saying one time that "silence is luxurious".) We took time to practice these disciplines. We read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on what we refer to as Palm Sunday and imagined ourselves present and wondered what it would have been like to be there with the crowds - chanting "hosanna", feeling the excitement of the Messiah who would certainly now take his place of political and religious leadership over the Jews. (Can you then imagine their disappointment when a few days later he is condemned to die?)
On Saturday we went to The Grotto and spent three hours in silence. It would take an even longer blog to tell you all that I learned from God in those few hours. But mostly, I was reminded that He lives in me, that He has sent me, and that His words are True.
I want more.
Setting aside time to listen to the words of Jesus and hear Him speak was...Life. Peace. Goodness. Warmth. Forgiveness. Grace.
In my last blog I quoted Henri Nouwen who suggested that we often go through life without pausing to ask whether what we do or say is worth doing or saying. We are so occupied with our busyness that we fail to question why or wrestle with our intentions and motivations. As a wife, mother, church planter, and Chi Alpha missionary I can easily come up with things that can be done. I could keep myself occupied for a lifetime and then some. But what happens when I fail to pause and hear the words of Jesus and allow them to wash over me?
Lonliness. Anger. Doubt. Anxiety. Bitterness. Insecurity. Pain.
Ask my husband or my kids. When I don't take the time to hear from God, I'm impatient. I start comparing myself to others. I doubt my call or whether I can hear from God. (Maybe even at times doubt there is a God.) I complain. I feel empty. (And how many ways do I try to fill that emptiness?)
Am I really that different from the rest of humanity? Don't I live in the same world that Ted Anthony or Henri Nouwen experience(d)?
Without the words of Jesus, without His life within me I am as dried up, hopeless, and discouraged as anyone else. The truth is that the roots of war, depression, anger, etc. exist in me! Only by consuming and meditating on God's word (both written and the truth I hear when I listen to Him - words of love and encouragement) do I have the abundant, overflowing life within me that enables me to walk with and into a hurting and broken world. I can then say, "Look! I am like you. This humanity is in me, but so is Jesus. And He is why I have hope." It is only then that I can be motivated by love to give to those in need.
Let me encourage you today to take a small piece of scripture (like, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart") and chew on it for 5-10 minutes of silence. Let the words move beyond an intellectual understanding and truly nourish your soul. I'm not promising an emotion. But I know that God will meet you, remind you of Himself, and He will bring you life.