Call and Response

  • Posted on Aug 30, 2010

There appeared to Jesus a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for 18 years. She was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight. Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood straight and began praising God. Luke 13:10-13

It is a challenge living into the healing God has for us in life. My favorite uber-psychologist is Carl Jung. He says that: “We walk in shoes too small for us.” What might that mean? Are we like the crippled woman who could only see the dirt and dust of the ground right in front of her feet for 18 long years? The woman who couldn’t see that there was a larger, brighter world just in front of her and all around?

In his book What Matters Most: Living a Considered Life, James Hollis writes that living “small” is easier than living “large.” Hollis tells the story of a man who was 70 years old and retiring from his profession:

What beckoned him —promising peace, stepping down from the pressures, offering freedom to pursue his interests–has proved to be rather problematic after all. It seems that in the decades of faithfully serving the expectations of his family, his church, his profession, he has essentially lost contact with his own needs, his own instinctual reality. Like so many people, he does not feel an essential permission to be who he is, desire what he wants and pursue what the soul wants. How incredible is this fact that a person can live a productive life, be approved of by family and culture, and have achieved every conscious goal, and still have “no”permission. (p. 63)

I was truly struck by this man’s predicament. At different stages of life–not just retirement–we can find ourselves in this situation. We’ve so lived our lives according to external prompts and expectations that we have forgotten who we are in our deepest soul. We have forgotten the child of God that God created us–and only us–to be. And then, we go back to a place that brings us back to our truest selves. For many of us, that can be our church home. It can be the liturgy of our faith. It can be a summer spot at the ocean or in the mountains. For me, it was going back to my childhood camp this summer.

Going back to a place that I loved allowed me to recover some of the self that I have placed on a shelf somewhere in my soul. A shelf that I will get back to some day. A shelf that had gathered plenty of dust. It’s a self that loves to sing and laugh. It’s a self that finds God in the outdoors, in the everyday schedule, in friends that know and love you for the long haul. It’s so easy to lose that self in the business of our vocational life. This is just as true in the church as it is in the corporation or the school or the business. Somewhere along the way we shelve a critical part of who we are to serve an external authority. Even though that authority might do very good work in the world, if we lose who God created us to be–that very unique part that each of us carries and is given to give back to the world—we are truly lost. Jesus talks about this again and again in so many different parables and teachings. 

Yesterday I saw one of the Samaritan community clients on the sidewalk. We chatted for a bit. Then he said, “Mother Martha, you look different. The summer agreed with you.” Yes, it did. And I wonder: Am I standing up just a bit straighter? Maybe it took dusting off the shelf of my soul by the lake in Tennessee and remembering who I am.

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