I have never been far from the flock of Jesus. Over time, definitions, doctrine, theology, core orientations may have adjusted, may have stretched, may have faded. I have fallen in and out and in love with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I am clear on my need for a Savior, for a beginning of the Story, for a Creator, Rescuer, Comforter. I am a curious student of Grace and the arms of my heart are growing, cell by cell, in order to embrace biographies foreign. Personalities offensive. Limitations my own. It is often a painful process, to realize my closed, arthritic hands. To push muscles in ways they have for so long been allowed to refuse. Like physical therapy, uncomfortable but regaining something true–something you were designed for.
Often all these things have all been secondary to who I really am. It is easier for me to be about right and wrong. Behaving. Pleasing. Judging. Dedicated moral formation and a type A personality made me a formidable tower of black and white. The state of my heart was neglected for many years as I focused my attention on what I did right and wrong. Human effort. Resolving. I did the right things but not truly as a result of tuning my ear to my soul–the inward life, the grateful spirit, the compass I was losing. I did the right things because they were right. And this drains humanity. It protects life to a degree, but then it saps our existence, our view, of a beating heart. Of a relevant crying God.
There are many offerings to explain why the Christian life, why life within the Church, is something like a piece of gum to many Americans. A brief palate-cleanser that quickly loses flavor, to be tossed and forgotten, offering no convincing substance or nutrition necessary for a fruitful life.
We are now in the work of introducing the Jesus-life and story to people who have completely different upbringings, values, definitions and histories than I did. There is something compelling enough about the difference He has made in our life that we are here, somewhat foolishly, to see how He might use us to identify His presence, to add to His family. As I have listened to stories, become friends, learned from frontiers in this field of faith, I am sharply aware of my need to be in tune with my soul. With the internal character that doesn’t play out in being a moral, upright citizen but in being a kind, inviting person. In being sure enough of His voice and my identity that rejection, mistakes, miscommunication and sin itself does not threaten my balance. My estimation of His goodness and the pregnancy of this moment.
I am a veteran in the flock but a child to the Shepherd. When I take time to reexamine memories looking for Him, to present my requests as invitations, and to open all of life, from the dishes to the driving, I have found that His voice is not as much do and don’t, good job or try again. His voice is more so, see this?, wait, don’t be afraid. Those important, comforting, juvenile constructs of black and white are giving way to a revived expression of imagination, question marks, and thank-yous. And these are much more helpful to everyday life and saying what a friend we have in Jesus.
My God is not my own behavior record, nor is He subject to it. He is about nurturing my soul, attending to the hidden person of my heart, of yours. He is a deliverer and a father. In showing me this wider Self, as I look up from my list to the expanse of the green pastures, I absorb the right and wrong I still need to learn. As I receive and observe grace, I am forced to see that the first people I have to share this with are the last people I tend to. As I am assured of His presence in the scariest moments of my life, I see that there are people around me who are asking for company in theirs. Second, after, because of. Hearts become stronger, humanity refilled, compass gaining north. I am thankful in this transition.