“I start every meeting with questions,” my Michigan pastor said a few weeks ago, when we met to talk about this new role of mine. His questions are sometimes about John Wesley’s “three simple rules” — how are you doing with doing good, doing no harm, and staying in love with God? Other times he asks what the other’s celebrating. That’s a nice one. But “Sometimes I ask ‘how are you doing on becoming the person God called you to be?'”
“Oh, please, no; don’t ever ask me that one, please,” I said.
I live with that question.
Yesterday, I stepped back from volunteering at one of the places I served. The place taught me how easy it is to serve, and how much the homeless really look like you and me, and that these families care about the same stuff we worry about. But since I spent most of the time with staff instead of the poor, I felt loving my family and my kids is where I need to be.
So, I guess that’s a step toward this great commission of all of ours; this new space for a life-giving rhythm of our family, where “serving” isn’t something we go and do for a couple hours a week and then come home. Serving isn’t an extra; it’s a way of life.
But each day, I step backwards at the period previously known as naptime, when my toddler screams and sings and plays and takes off her shirt — anything but sleeping. I’m human.
This step back, step forward dance isn’t just something evident on my calendar or my face from 1 to 3 p.m. every afternoon.
A step toward is the overwhelming gratitude at the beauty around me in sharing life with my kids at home now. Books under some pines; dinner on the table. Indigo buntings on the feeder. As I count out graces each morning, it’s like trying to pick out drops of water while standing under a shower head. Impossible.
Tune my heart to sing thy grace. Streams of mercy, never ceasing. Training my eyes to see it is holy transformation.
But I stall, too. I’ve been praying about something very specific for three years. Three years. I won’t stop, but it’s hard. And I’ve been finding myself, in various parts of my life, in Nehemiah, or under Kings; at the well and amid the crowd watching other people’s miracles while tugging at Jesus’ hem. And in each of these stories, I’m not sure I know how it’s going to end. I trust the Author, but I’m not sure what trust in action looks like.
What does trust in action look like?
I think it looks like smiling and playing Uno Moo while making dinner — fish sticks and sweet potato fries, because we’re classy and economical — while emails and phone calls go unreturned. Because I’m making room to be a mom, to be here, now.
It probably looks like stepping back from something that sounds exactly spot-on — a job to pay off debt, a service opportunity at a homeless shelter — to make room.
Like swapping twin beds for bunk beds to make room … for someone or something we’re not sure of.
Donating all the clothes, shoes, toys and books we don’t need … to make room.
Like composing a plan for Sunday school, for first grade, for field trips and a retreat this summer, to make room for the Spirit, fun and friends.
Maybe I feel I hear radio silence from God in this season. Maybe I do, and we feel a little too much like a two-person island in some of these areas.
But I’m learning not to doubt in the silence. God speaks through silence and whispers and the wind — or through letters from a dear friend that leave me weepy on my porch as they speak to that one little hard nugget I couldn’t let go of.
That, my friends, is it. Letting go; making room.
“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Making room leads to space in our hearts to receive the words we need, when we need them. Making room leads to silences and more waiting, and unknowns, yeah; but to relationships, too.
If God requires us to respond to His setting apart, maybe making room is the next appropriate response for us.