Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spent light

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.
--John Milton

Someone I love is grieving tonight. She is an articulate soul, with
a wonderfully observant heart. And she mused that it seems that
even those closest to her seem uncomfortable with her grief.

I think it's true that most of us generally are uncomfortable with
genuine cries of pain, especially when they are the result of
circumstances over which we have no control. If we can hug it
away, or dispense some wisdom that will "improve" the situation,
or even write a check to some cause that tangentially addresses
the gulf of sadness/anger/hurt with which we are confronted, we
feel better...and can, by extension, be justified in becoming
impatient when the grieving person doesn't oblige our largess by
getting "fixed" when we want them to, for whatever kind or
selfish reasons. In the end, it comes down to this:

It's frightening to recognize that we don't totally control our lives.

The Milton poem I started with here is one that took me a long time to
appreciate. Stand and wait? What for? When we could be working the

I'm a do-er, you see. I try to reflect God's light (on bad days, I
forget about that in favor of generating my "own" light). I like to
feel that I've Made A Difference. Especially when someone I love is
in pain––man, I just hate that. But I think it's a bit naive to try
to save people from their lives; sometimes, all we can do is say,
"Yup, I see the monster, too," and stand quietly beside the one who's
facing it down. Or maybe to put a shoulder under our sister's yoke
and help her to bear it for a while.

Life really is bigger than we are. God is vast...which is sometimes
terrifying, but mostly comforting to me, depending upon where in God's
court I'm standing on a given day. Mostly, it's just good to know that
God's understanding and power and love are so much greater than mine.

We serve by standing and waiting, in the face of the abyss, for the
unfolding of God's purposes. We serve by not entwining someone else's
difficulties with our own discomfort on the edge of the chasm.
We serve
by pulling up our socks and getting on with it...but also by sitting
next to the one who's waiting to get her breath back after being punched
in the solar plexus.

We also serve when we only stand and wait.

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