…lead me on a level path….
By all accounts, I’m not too steady on my feet. My manual dexterity seems to slowly grow worse. These have been true for my entire life. They are common among those of us who were born with excess water on the brain, and who have a shunt that pulls water from our brains into the rest of our bodies. I don’t often give this much thought; we all have things about our bodies with which we deal. For the most part, I don’t put these realities to the test if I can help it. It took many years of therapy for me to come to the reality that courage comes in many forms. God is present in each form of courage.
In middle age, I shudder at the thought of climbing mountains or doing other things that put me at risk physically. As a kid, though, I wasn’t fond of having to accept my limitations. My classmates dreamt of being future Olympic hockey players like Derek Plante, who was my high school classmate, or Jamie Langenbrunner, or Corey Millen, all of whom were from my hometown. While I admired them, I knew I would never be like them in the way that has brought them notoriety and an elevated wealth. On the level of the ways the world measures success, I would never measure up. Deep in places I never admitted to anyone back then, this saddened and terrified me in ways I couldn’t articulate.
Courage, I have learned over time, comes in many forms. God is in each form, each way of being who we are, complete with gifts and talents and abilities unique to who God has made us. In another synod where I was once a pastor, our mission statement ended with these words: By God’s grace, together, we have what we need. This turns things around. We have not failed; we are planted in fertile soil from which God will grow something new. What we deem our limitations are, through the lens of God’s grace, gifts that we can use in care, love, and service to the world around us. The very things that feel like constraints on us can, in view of God’s love and mercy, be the very things God uses to bless the wider Church and world.
In Christ, we do not need to hide our limitations, our constraints, our losses, and griefs. Maybe for the first time in a long time, we can stop trying to climb mountains. Maybe we can join the Psalmist, who prays, “…lead me on a level path….” (Ps. 27:11b) This prayer is one of gratitude for the ways God has led and guided us; it also asks for God’s continued protection for this new journey, this new path, and this new way. It doesn’t ignore what has been; yet it also promises that what is and what is to come are also under God’s care and mercy.
As we’re praying to God asking for God’s abundant and abiding presence and love, we may also want to ask God for guidance, too. I ask you to join in praying: What would you have us do, O God? How might we be a blessing to the wider community? What can you do with us and through us for the sake of the world? Help me, O God, to release my grip on the future I envision so that the future you promise may unfold. We are sad, O God, that it’s all come to this, yet we ask you to lead and guide us in the direction you want us to go. We thank you that you don’t hold our limitations against us; we know that you will fashion a new way that blesses not only us, but also the world around us. Prepare our hearts, minds, and lives for what you will do among us. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done.” May it be ever so. Amen.
If this prayer is hard to utter, worry not. Grief is a powerful force in our lives – but grief is not more powerful than the God whose love is so on the loose among us that God gave Jesus for us. Can we allow ourselves to throw ourselves into the spacious and gracious care of God for us? Can we trust that God knows better than we what would be best for us?
These questions aren’t easy to hear or answer. Yet, in and through them, God’s grace is working to set us free from the tyranny of trying to live beyond who God has made us in Christ, and to set us on “…a level path…,” where we come face to face with one another as we walk together in the way of joy. For, the One who leads and guides us meets us on this path, and reveals love and care for us as well.
In Christ’s love and mercy,
Pastor Paul Lutter