Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There are ways in the last week that I've felt re-rooted and uprooted and I suppose that is just the way life can be. A few weeks ago, I was bothered by a dream that left me upon waking with an overwhelming sense of failure. I was not feeling or sensing this emotion in my waking existence, but somewhere in my subconscious it was lurking the way this kind of feeling lurks in dark corners of the psyche only to find release in REM moments of dreamland. It was a bad dream. I don't remember much of the details, just an oppressive feeling of.. "I really messed up and it can't be fixed."
For the most part, I shrugged off this seemingly random dream and went about my life. I was at the NYWC in Pittsburgh, so I had lots of things to keep me busy and occupied. I resumed the pace of life when returning home to my family and my work and planned out the remaining months of the year of youth activities and gatherings without so much as missing a beat. That is until tripping over the words of a friend and co-worker last Sunday morning.
The scripture chosen for the day was the parable of the talents. So there was much thinking on the area of gifts and the use of gifts. Needless to say, it got me thinking on all the hopes and dreams I have and maybe, just maybe some of the shortfalls of the past came to mind. Maybe even some of the feelings of that random dream came creeping along too... that is until I heard someone say my name and came back to the reality of Sunday morning worship where I was sitting.
My friend said to me... " Tara, God did not call you here to fail."
That was it - simple and direct - in the middle of his message to the church members gathered. In the middle of the message, was a direct message to me - me! My nightmare was obliterated in a few powerful words.
Forget the dream and feelings of failure - God has a different plan than you can imagine. In the words of Krista Tippett, " ...each of us, flawed and inadequate as we may feel, has exactly what's needed to help repair (or accomplish what needs to be done) the part of the world that we see and touch" (Speaking of Faith, pg 184.)
Wherever I feel rooted or uprooted, God is sufficient - more that sufficient really. Though I felt affirmed and moved to tears in worship by the words that addressed me last Sunday morning, I was not fully aware of their magnitude in the coming day.
Monday afternoon, a new but particularly close friend of mine died suddenly from a massive heart attack. I feel totally uprooted by his death and yet I know that my presence at his funeral later today will be a rooting experience for me. It is a reality check and a opportunity of re-rooting in grace that I'm holding onto today.
I know that God is the root and I'm a branch that has experienced pruning in the past, in today and in will come again in the future. Even in pain, growth occurs - sometimes even more so. Today I will do my best to be a advocate for "tikkun olam" - repair the world, even if it is only my small section of branches.
Hold on to the bread. Hold fast to the root.
photo found at Wordpress
The time of advent is one of expectation and waiting. Waiting is not something thing that our hurried-need-to-get-what-I-need-done-yesterday culture excels. The scripture readings in Isaiah 63:16-19 and 64:2-7 are filled with examples of people asking God to hurry back to help his servants or hurry and do an awesome work that is unexpected, but greatly needed. While the time that we wait expectantly on God is not easy to live through, the waiting time often provides us the opportunity to grow in faith.
A few years ago I went through a particularly difficult and what seemed a long period of waiting for God to care for a need in my life. In the waiting time, there were glimmers of hope in escaping what seemed to be an impossible situation. At times, I was living from glimmer to glimmer, thinking my great escape was just around the corner. So much of that time I felt as if God was hiding his face(Isaiah 64:7) from me.
One day, while driving to work I was listening to a CD by the group called Switchfoot. The comforting words rushed into my ears and reached my heart that chilly winter morning...
"Sunshine, won't you be my mother
Sunshine, come and help me sing
My heart is darker than these oceans
My heart is frozen underneath
We are crooked souls trying to stay up straight,
Dry eyes in the pouring rain
The shadow proves the sunshine
The shadow proves the sunshine."
The shadow proves the sunshine. Those words helped me see beyond my own circumstance of difficulty that advent season and showed me that even though sometimes we can only see shadow and darkness, we can still know that there is a light shining somewhere. Maybe it is someone else's turn to sit in the direct focus of God's light? Maybe it is our turn to wait expectantly for God to do an awesome thing we do not expect.
After really listening the words of that song that winter morning, it seemed like I didn't have to rely so much on momentary glimmers because I knew in my heart that God was with me, even in the shadows. Every time I saw a shadow in my circumstances, I was reminded of the sunshine that was always present - even if I could not see it with my eyes.
It became possible for me to begin to ask God what he would like to do in working out my difficult situation, instead of me trying to tell God what I thought the solution was. In life and the difficulty that it sometimes presents us, may we always know that God is with us in the shadows. Even if we are only able to pray, "God, surprise me.", we will see through the darkness to find the light of awesome things we do not expect. May we be willing to expectantly wait for something so fantastic as the star of Bethlehem and the gift of hope,love and promise it announced to the shepherds on the eve of Jesus birth. The shadow proves the sunshine.
16 But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, O LORD, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17 Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes that are your inheritance.
18 For a little while your people possessed your holy place,
but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary.
19 We are yours from of old;
but you have not ruled over them,
they have not been called by your name.
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and made us waste away because of our sins.