Starting a new Summer Series from Laura Degroot’s book: Live Wide Awake
Thomas Merton once said, “The spiritually poor man loves his very insufficiency.” This reminded me of Jesus teaching, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” My mind and heart are going back often to the things I have learned from the past. I’ve picked up the journal from my seminary days, now 20 years ago, where I was privileged to experience the learning environment of a multi-cultural and multi-racial context. An amazing gift. Posture is critical in our response to the sins that ail us. God has led me to the posture of humility in the midst of our current cultural context. And that quickly leads me to sorrow and grief.
Racism has always been a part of the human condition. A reality that requires continual vigilance, watchfulness, action, and prayer. As we have witnessed via video with our own eyes, racism and all of its spawned evil is clear for us all to see. How ought we to respond? The responses for followers of Jesus can be a myriad. Some are led to speak something, more than do something. Some are led to do something, more than speak something. Some are led to engage both avenues and the strength of any response varies from person to person. And of course, there are a plethora of possibilities between the two.
Personally, I’ve been led to silence. The unfolding of responses have brought me mixed emotions – from anger to deep sorrow, from a desire to strike out at injustice and unjust doers to falling down on the ground in helpless frustration, from launching into full activism mode to the desire to withdraw from it all…
And then I’m reminded of Thomas Merton who essentially says through his writing, Thoughts in Solitude, “This life is more about hungering and thirsting, and the next is more about fulfillment and satisfaction.” And I’m both encouraged and discouraged by it. I’m encouraged by the reality spoken in the statement – we are in the ‘now, but not yet’ time of God’s kingdom fulfillment. And I’m discouraged because I say, “This kind of thing that happened to George Floyd is something we still have to grapple with? I want Kingdom fulfillment now!” This statement by Merton causes me a desire to both engage for ‘Kingdom Come’ and at the same time, feel my shoulders sag and bring my gaze to the ground in discouragement.
I do take hope in this: That in recognition of our sin and our weakness, spiritual wretchedness and infirmity, our ‘poverty of spirit’ – Jesus becomes amazingly sufficient. My hope is in Him, and Him alone. Why? Because I know, in my humanity, apart from God, the pathway of sin will lead me toward hatred, violence, and ultimately, despair. But thanks be to God, that is not the reality for which God has called me forward.
So in the midst of such overwhelming issues to navigate, from racism, sexism, climate change, abortion (and this is the tip of the iceberg), I find myself in the myriad of responses, from activism to prayer, spoken words to being speechless, overt engagement to withdrawing in solitude. Its a delicate dance of deliberation and discernment.
I am in awe of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God the Father, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to whom there can be acknowledgment of my sin, surrender of my spirit, and a gentle leading of my steps each and every day. His grace is truly amazing.
I am also deeply grateful for a Gospel that orients and informs my worldview when confronted with the evil’s of our time. I began this blog with referring to a time in my life 20 years ago, in the midst of wonderful growth, particularly in a context of ‘the poor’ and where racial reconciliation was the heart of every ministry experience. In my journal was this poem I wrote back then:
I’m having a hard time dying to self
to put myself on a shelf.
to lay aside my ideology and activity
and return to God – nativity.
The simple, humble act of resting in Christ – source of love and life, water and blood, flowing, bubbling, running over – FLOOD – bury, cover, drown out my sin. Cleanse, wash, and fill deep within.
Breathe into me Spirit, new life, this heart of mine
sweet smelling fragrance, the taste of new wine.
Cut off, disengaged, unplugged from the source
renew, redirect, remove my remorse
relight my path, and chart a new course.
Why do I struggle and battle along the way?
Ever increasing glory from day to day.
Prune me Lord, prune me I say.
Painful, hurt, freeing, dying to self.
Help me Lord, put myself on a shelf.
Glory, radiant, someday I’ll witness
the mirror transformation of His likeness.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit, 3 in 1 glory,
renew me today – make me a grace story. (MAQ)
This week’s message leads us to a place of humility and acknowledgment of our brokenness. With any hot issue of our time – it begins here. This brokenness is to be acknowledged individually and also, corporately. As we seek God individually and corporately in the face of the challenges of our current context and it’s burning issues, let us keep our eyes focused on Jesus. I think if we do this, we will be in awe of Him, and desire to follow Him in all things his Kingdom. What this will do is shape our responses into God glorifying endeavors.