Every once in awhile, a really good question can stop me right in my proverbial tracks and provide rich context for prayer and reflection. I was blessed by two such questions this week.
The first question comes from a book I bought several years ago for the title alone that I am slowly making my way through: Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, by Bill Hybels.
In a section about schedules and calendars, he writes:
“Simplicity cannot be achieved without clarity about the big-picture target of your life. To create a schedule that reflects your most important life goals, you must begin with the right question.” The question isn’t, ‘What do I want (or in my case, need) to get done in the next thirty days, but ‘Who do I want to become in this next season of my life?’”
What a question to ponder. Here is my first answer:
I want to be a leader clear about the big picture of why it matters that the Episcopal Church writ large, and every expression of the Episcopal Church in our congregations and communities, be a strong, vibrant expression of Christian practice and ministry. I want to be clear why it matters that our people grow deeper in faith and love of God, more confident in their identity as disciples, Christ-followers, people of His way. I want to do everything in my power as a leader to build our collective capacity to occupy with grace and joy our place on the wide spectrum of Christian witness and thereby give God more to work with in and through us.
The second question that gently rocked my world this week was one the Rev. Chris Yaw, founder of the on-line resource Church Next, asked those of us gathered at the Discipleship Matters Conference sponsored by Renewal Works:
How is Jesus saving you right now?
It’s not a question Episcopalians often ask one another, and we collectively squirmed a bit in our seats. But I was grateful for it, because it allowed me to name for myself where I am personally in need of saving grace.
Here is my first answer:
There are certain things in my life beyond my control, that I would give anything to fix or change, but I can’t. And I know that I can’t, because I’ve tried and failed, more than once. Not only have I failed; in some instances, by my efforts to make things better, I have made them worse.
And how is Jesus saving me? Much in the same way he saved St. Paul, who at a crucial time in his life, as recorded in 2 Corinthians, was afflicted by what he called “a thorn in his side.” Three times he appealed to the Lord to remove it, and three times the Lord said, no. And then the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient, for my strength will be revealed in your weakness.”
When I hold in prayer my thorn that will not be removed, I don’t have to pretend that it doesn’t hurt, because it does. When the pain washes me over, I let it be, and I pray for grace to be sufficient. Sometimes I feel that grace; often I don’t. Regardless of how I feel, I rise, accepting, for one more day, what I cannot change. And then Jesus gives me the grace to live with joy in other realms of my life, because I know that I’m not alone in the hardest place. A side gift of my thorn: it keeps me humble and more sensitive to others, even those with whom I struggle, who are no doubt carrying quiet burdens of their own.
Such is the the power of good questions. And so I ask you, in turn:
Who do you want to become in this next season of your life?
How is Jesus saving you, right now?