So, as previously mentioned, I’m working through “Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us” by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. For the last few days I’ve been pondering my way through one particular quote. I promise you that I’m not just hanging around in the first chapter (as it isn’t that kind of book), but that chapter has a lot of good thought-nuggets. The quote comes from page 21:
“Becoming aware of what is true and false about us is essential for spiritual growth, and it is not always comfortable. So when we find ourselves in the space between desire and demand, when we are waiting on God and nothing seems to be happening, we must remember this space is an opportunity. In the unfixables of our lives we are invited to keep company with Jesus and take a risk that God’s intentions toward us are good.”
This quote has been running through my mind almost constantly for the past few days. I will hopefully be undergoing a minor surgical procedure in a few days and I have been waiting for news on whether or not a transplant will be available. It has been an anxious moment in time for me. It has also been quite revealing.
As a pastor, I sit with folks and I often invite them to trust in God in similar moments. I tell them that nervousness is natural but that worrying will do little good in their lives. I invite them to find faith through their trials, yet as I approach the same trials I find myself in a place where I can clearly see my own anxiousness. The veil that I put over these parts of my life has been worn pretty thin in the past few weeks–I can see that there is room for personal growth in faith.
It isn’t easy to grow into that faith, especially when the comfortable cloak of the false-self is peeled back. As Pastor Calhoun writes, when we’re in that space of waiting on God it can be uncomfortable, but it also an opportunity. I was speaking to a parishioner the other day about a similar place of anxious waiting. I drew her a doodle similar to this one…
On the left we have all of the stuff we know is within our control. On the right we have the place where we need to go. In the middle we have a greatly distorting and disguising cloud. Anything can be in there. It could be a giant gap of nothingness filled with cloud or it could be the world’s most sturdy platform. One thing is true regardless of whatever is in there. Whatever sits in that mysterious fog is unknown.
I explained what I had been processing from Pastor Calhoun’s writing. In the midst of what I can control and what I can not control there is an opportunity to trust that whatever rests in that cloud is something good. Occasionally in life we have to trust that God does intend good things for us. Occasionally in life we are called to take the proverbial leap of faith.
My own necessity for a leap of faith has been half of the reason why this quote has been in my mind lately. The other reason it has been in my mind has been the other concept lifted up in this passage. We have the opportunity to trust but we’re also invited to keep company with Jesus through these moments of stress.
What does it mean to keep company with Jesus? It has meant many things to many different people. Perhaps it means…
- Caring for the least around you.
- Reading through Jesus’ story on a regular basis and letting the stories sink into our heart, being, and soul. Maybe it goes deeper into certain portions of Jesus’ story during certain seasons. Maybe it is simply taking a parable or story and pondering it each morning.
- Entering into the holy sacraments with regularity. While my church does not engage in weekly communion, many churches keep the tradition of sharing the Lord’s Supper as often as they meet. John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement, had a lot to say about that in his sermon “The Duty of Constant Communion.” My experiences in places where I have had regular communion have been a blessing.
- Caring for the least around you…
- Spending time on a regular basis going into one of the many spiritual disciplines that have helped people to go deeper in their faith through the centuries. A lot of people fixate on the disciplines like silence and fasting, but there are many different ways people have gone deeper in their faith. Maybe you are drawn to the Examen (to overly simplify, a practice of seeking to find God in your daily life) or to prayer walks.
- Letting God interrupt your busyness with prayer. Perhaps you set a new rule that you take a moment to pray before you get out of your car when running errands or perhaps you stop to take a moment to give thanks in prayer for your baptism when you wash your hands. Perhaps, if it is feasible, you find a simple ring and wear it for a season so that each time you notice it rubbing against a pen, pencil, or steering wheel you remember to pray. Yes, that is a very similar idea to tying a string to your finger to remember something. Yes, a string would work too.
- Perhaps you need to spend some time in confession so that you feel comfortable both with God’s forgiveness and with a growing proximity to Jesus. I know it seems strange to list that as a way to keep company with Jesus, but the old saying is true. Confession is good for the soul.
- Caring for the least around you… Why yes, Jesus did tell a story where the King said “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me” (Mt. 25). Perhaps one of the best ways we can keep company with Jesus is to be with folks who need love and compassion.
Keeping company with Jesus can come about in many different ways. For me half of the journey has been finding the courage to take the leap and the other half has been focusing my heart and mind on keeping company with Jesus in my anxiety.
If you find yourself in a similar place of anxiety today, I hope you know that I am praying with you. May God bless us all as we seek to walk with Jesus through all of the strange and unknown parts of life.