I Got Nothin’

I have not been ship wrecked or beaten to within an inch of my life in the last twelve months.  Actually, neither of these things has ever happened to me which means that I’m doing a bit better than Paul.

I have not lost all of my fortunes, had my kids die suddenly, and then been covered in puss-filled blistered.  This suggests I am ahead of Job, too. 

But it has been a long, hard, sucky year.  Despite my failure to hit just the same challenges as Job, a few friends, quite independently of each other, have observed that this has been a Job-like year for me.

I was pretty well wrung-out today in church.  It was a hard to sit through the service, but a good kind of hard, I think.  Lots of wrestling with the meaning of it all, turning some of pain over to Jesus, taking a long hard look at what responsibility I need to own and learn from.

Too be honest, it didn’t tie itself so neatly in a bow at the time.   And it still isn’t entirely neatly tied up.  Theres a part of me that has turned it over, and another that is holding onto it; a part of me that is owning responsibility for my parts and a part of me that’s just simply angry at God, a part of me that sees the meaning and a part of me that does not.

My church community has been so giving and loving through this whole year.  And this just adds to the quagmire of emotions; it adds guilt to the mix, guilt that despite the love and kindness I am still struggling and anxious and fearful and yes, angry.

And one of the things I am angry about is this:

I have been this recipient.  This object of kindness.  I don’t feel like I have a lot to give, a lot to share.  One problem with this is it leads to shame.  It leads to fearing that I am some kind of leech.  I have this fear that things will always be this way.

I thought about the widow.  Jesus said her tiny little act of giving counts for more than the wealth given by the Pharisee. 

The part of this story that I got before was this: her giving was an act of faith, because she had real need of the moneys that she offered up.  A rich man, giving out of abundance, at best, he will be inconvenienced by his genorousity.  Presumably, he is still holding on to enough that he need not directly rely on God to get his needs met.

Today I got this glimpse of something more.  Something in addition to the faith implicit in the widows act.  I am struggling a little to explain it.

It would have been easy for the widow to sit like me, and bemoan that she has nothing to give.  I suppose I am pretty good company.  The disciples had just that boys lunch with which to feed the thousands.  They too, were paralyzed by the size of the need.  They too overlooked the little that they did have to give. 

When God looks at the tiny amount the widow has, or all of the riches of the richest man… he sees not much difference.  These are still both from God.  When viewed from infitinity, they are both unimaginably… tiny and pathetic.

It is not the quantity.  Any quantity that we can come up with comes from God, and is such a tiny fraction of what God has. 

In the middle of the sadness and shame its hard to see that.  There are these little tiny things I can offer.  But I am so ashamed of how small they are when compared to what I have received… a talk myself out of offering them up.

And so I become like the servant who just buried the riches; protectively holding onto what I have because of the fear. 

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “I Got Nothin’”

  1. A guy in my spiritual formation class last week led a devotional on the widow-story. He made the point that that gift was both the smallest and the biggest in the whole Bible.

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