1 Cor, Ministry, Mothering

The purposes of the heart

"The Lord…will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of
the heart."
(A sliver of 1 Corinthians 4:5, NRSV)

While feeling less than vibrant, I've been pondering what in the world my condition, my ailment, my diagnosis may have on my future in ministry. Certainly the capacity to turn words around in my mind and see them find form on paper, to examine my daily life and bring it into conversation with the texts I encounter (scripture, literature, the arts, family life, pop culture, dog walking and so forth), seems not to abate.

I honestly don't look at this as a deliberate act on the part of a Divine Teacher trying to lay a particular lesson on me. I can't say that enough, though one pal declares this will be on her "WTF?" list when she gets to heaven.

(Yes, that was supposed to be funny. Please be laughing.)

(Okay. The next part is serious.)

On a spring morning in 1992, I
had a conversation with a friend who had lost a baby years before, as
she offered her sympathy for my more recent loss.

"Do you
think God lets these things happen to teach us something?" Her baby had
died at birth, the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.

I replied emphatically, thinking more of her story than of mine. And
then I thought for a moment and said, more slowly, "But I guess if we
*can* learn something from the experience, that's good."

I've done a lot of working out of my theology at the back doors of other people's houses, while pushing a cart through the aisles of a grocery store, while picking up dropped stitches or winding stubborn balls of yarn. There has been no ivory tower, just a mother racing from one state to another to study, then parent, then write, then parent, then race around and start it all over again. I look back at my years in seminary and cannot imagine how I kept all the pieces of my life going. It took determination and energy, yes, but it also took faith that at some point the purposes of the heart, the purpose of my life, would be revealed. I believed that there was some way I could serve, even though my classmates' jaws tended to drop when they heard I was the single mother of THREE young children. I was a category unto myself.

If you followed me here from my other blog, you'll know that I've been in discernment, along with others, about planting new UCC churches in the Conference where I live, and about being one of the church planters myself. My friend Kathryn tells me that in the Church of England they would call that being a Pioneer Minister. I love that! I want to pioneer, to go to new places and do things in new ways. It's appealing.

It's also "now hidden in darkness" and waiting to be brought into the light.

Of course that's true for the future all of us face. In our churches or our families, whether or not we consider ourselves to be in any sort of dramatic transition, there is always something around the corner, some new leading, some new understanding just waiting to be illuminated.

I think the most uncomfortable place is the one where we know the moment of knowledge is close by, but don't have any idea what the answer will be. The Princess and I had just squealed our amazement at David Cook's victory over the other David when the phone rang. It was late, and I was surprised to see Snowman's number on the Called ID. He called from school, feeling anxious. At noon he will learn who his new teacher will be, and the anticipation he felt on the night before the big day felt almost unbearable.

I'm an old hand when it comes to anxiety. I've had the spinning thoughts (yes, I'm thinking of the lilies from a different angle here), and I've trained myself to review them, one at a time, to determine whether they were real worries, and whether I could do anything about them right now, and figured out a way to lay them aside for morning, when they often seem less enormous. And I've also felt the more primal panic, the feeling of my chest caving in with the weight of worry, an undifferentiated panic that responds to only one thing: breathing.

We breathed together on the phone, a new development in long-distance parenting.

He will know more soon; I may not know more for weeks or months; and in fact it may be years before I look back on this spring of 2008 and say, "Oh! Here is what I learned in the midst of gathering information and noticing symptoms and making accommodations and resisting limitations. Here is what that time revealed about me, about the people around me, about God's place in my life."

I don't look to a return of the Lord such as Paul expected when he wrote to the church at Corinth. He expected that return in his own lifetime! We live on the edge and at the same time in the midst of a long road with no apparent end, don't we? A Reform Rabbi explained to a group of seminarians, including me, that his tradition believed it was up to us to bring in the Messianic age, through our efforts to make the world more like the Kingdom of God we seek. And I don't think he simply meant good works; I know he didn't. He meant we needed a change of understanding. Instead of waiting endlessly, we need to participate.

The inner life of faith is not passive, not merely receptive. It is a life of of living where we are and not where we were, of looking down the spiritual road, of taking the next steps, of preparing for the future, whatever it may bring into the light, whatever it may reveal about the purposes of the heart.

8 thoughts on “The purposes of the heart”

  1. Songbird, you make me cry. In a good way. You give words to things in my own life that I have not understood before or struggled with.
    When I stand in line at the book store waiting for you to autograph my book, I hope you recognize me. ~grins~

  2. You couldn’t have known this, but these are just the words I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  3. yep. yep. and yep. and a gentle reminder that all of us are monitoring symptoms of some sort, wondering and waiting, and searching for God’s voice in the midst of it… guess we all are spinning at different paces.

  4. (((Songbird))). Your friends are all praying for you. You are… an inspiration. That’s probably an annoying thing to say, but it’s the truth.

  5. I echo all of the above, and wonder, in a more practical vein, if you have heard of or considered Dragon Speaking Naturally? It’s a voice recognition program that allows you to control a computer and write without using your hands. I used it some when I was having some passing trouble with my wrists, and though it takes some getting used to when words normally just seem to flow through one’s fingertips, it’s pretty good.
    God is with you; you will find your way.

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