There are two factors that set the trajectory of my faith life. The first revolved around my actual birth. My father told me that due to complications from the RH factor, there were concerns that antibodies would build up in my blood. So he promised God that if his child were born healthy that I would be his. I was born healthy and my mother said that for the first six months of my life I wouldn’t let my father come near me. The second factor was after taking a test measuring intelligence, I scored in the 98% measuring common sense, which resulted in an almost permanent look of incredulity and the consequences that followed for most of my young life. At this point I take it as a guarantee that God has a sense of humor because he’s also gifted me with a house hold of men who seem to have absolutely no sense at all.
The challenges of being rooted in the practical and tangible elements of the world and at the same time being dedicated to the spiritual realm sometimes seemed insurmountable and made spontaneous combustion a distinct possibility during my early years. I never questioned God’s existence because God seemed to be in my head talking to me all the time…crazy to think, yes, but the voice was so clear that I took it as a matter of fact after awhile. If God spoke to Moses in a burning bush, why not me? I heard God most clearly after some “incident” in Catholic school for being insubordinate, like the time I had to stick my head in the desk to suffer the humiliation of Eve for correcting my teacher, or the time I had to crawl around the school on my hands and knees for suggesting that they should change it so the light didn’t go off in the confessional when you kneeled on it because it was just too creepy and everyone knew confession was hard enough that not kneeling in the dark would make it easier. God would tell me not to take it personally, that perhaps they didn’t understand or appreciate that I was just being practical. Suffice it to say, when it was suggested that I may be the first alumni of St. Odilia to end up in jail someday that my teacher’s didn’t understand God’s plan for me any better than I did. Thankfully, God did, though, and I walked the path set before me with fearless abandon. I hoped I was being groomed for something big.
So when I claimed an academic theology major in college, most everyone was surprised. When asked in my intro to theology class which bible verse depicted my faith, I chose King David dancing naked before the ark of the covenant. Although my professor was scandalized at first, once I had the opportunity to explain, she ultimately became one of my greatest advocates. I told her that God and I had a covenant and that he had a plan for me just like King David and I simply wanted to celebrate that..plain and simple. Those were the early innocent years and while I never wavered in the course that God had set for me, the urge to dance about it waned from time to time. Throughout my ministry I had many wild adventures from a contemplative monastery in the desert, travelling to the Soviet Union with the National Council of Churches just to name a few.
After all my adventures, I still pondered where it was all going to lead me. When would I arrive at my destiny? As much I was gifted to participate in some pretty incredible opportunities, the things that struck me most was never the “greatness” of the event itself. It was always an ordinary moment with ordinary people surrounding the great event or opportunity that I remember. I can clearly recall all the kindness extended to me by strangers and ordinary folk that helped me move forward on my journey. The story of Lydia in Acts, while may seem awfully simple to include in scripture, may be more powerful than at first glance. Without her hospitality, who knows how much more difficult Paul and Silas’ journey could have been. Without the simple gestures of love extended to those great people in history, where would any of us be? I realized that I spent the greater part of my ministry creating the kind of environment that is necessary for people to be their best. Perhaps I was mislead in believing that being groomed for greatness meant all the bells and whistles, when the most important work was building on the simple and ordinary moments in life. When the disciples were nervous about their own authority in preaching the gospel, Jesus told them this: “They will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.” He didn’t say they will know you by how great a speaker you are, or because you are influential, or how pious you are, or how well you follow the rules. It was something that couldn’t be measured, but could be powerfully felt. Which is why I now believe the the world will be saved by ordinary people one moment at a time.
When the sense of hospitality faded in the church my family attended, we went in search of the simple gesture of Lydia, and found it at Peace. From the warmth of neighbors, friends and the Pastor, we felt welcome. Peace became a place where we could be our best, and still dance a bit too, fully clothed of course, but dance just the same. I find my ministry in ordinary things these days, even though I still get worried whether or not after all my education and work I’ve done if living an ordinary life is the best way to spend my time. I will end with God’s response in dream I had.
I dreamt that I was standing knee deep in the water of a tunnel in a water park, which my practical side was irritated by because I was fully clothed. An empty boat floated up to me, and God told me to get in the boat. I admit I wasn’t really in the mood, but after all these years I wasn’t about to balk now and I got in the boat. The boat moved through the tunnel out into the open light when I realized that I was high up on a roller coaster. My immediate thought was that I was in a boat that wasnt’ attached to the track…without a seat belt on. When I looked over the side, I could barely see the water on the bottom and there were little black dots floating around. I asked God what the little black dots were just as I was going over the edge and God said to me quite clearly, “Oh, those were the people who didn’t make it” When I awoke, I curiously wasn’t alarmed at the dream…and then the first song I heard that day was “Free-falling” by Tom Petty. I knew then what to do, hold onto nothing and just let go and things would work out ok. It goes against my common sense, but in a heavenly way it makes perfect sense. God can see what we can’t, and while free-falling may be uncomfortable…it is the best way for me…I never put much stock in being a floating black dot.