Friday, May 6, 2011

Struggling Against the Inevitable

I wrote this meditation some time ago; now I can't even remember what I didn't want to do, if I did it, and how it turned out. It seems that there are always new challenges to meet, however, so I am posting it now.

My friends are enjoying the sight of me struggling against the inevitable, while I sit here pouting. A tremendous opportunity has opened for me, and people are waiting in the wings to help make it happen. The problem is, I don’t want to do it. I don’t really have a good reason (read: logical, rational), I just don’t want to.
            The task will not be easy for me, despite those willing helpers. The situation reminds me of a small New Testament class whose members met around a conference table to dig into the text. I left most classes exhilarated, grinning, and nursing a massive headache—and I am not a person who gets headaches. At one point during a class, after we had worked through a particularly difficult passage, I put my head in my hands and softly whined, “It’s hard.” My professor overheard me, though I hadn’t intended him to, and looked up at me. “What? Of course it’s hard. Anything worth doing is hard,” he proclaimed, and we plunged back into the text. This thing against which I struggle now is, I know, very much worth doing.
            Saint Paul wrote to his supporters in Corinth, “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9) Paul was speaking of outsiders who were making things difficult for him in another Greek city, Ephesus, where he was establishing a church. I am my only adversary in this particular case, but I can be formidable. I know my weak spots and how to scare myself out of what seems a golden opportunity.
            We are often our own worst enemies, endlessly repeating mental loops of old tapes telling us we can’t, we’ll fail, we’ll embarrass ourselves or our ________ [insert the group of choice: parents, family, friends, church]. To replace the fears with faith—in the God who made the “wide door,” in ourselves, in our supporters—takes imagination and courage.
            Along with being my own worst enemy, though, I see that I’ve already given myself a lifeline, like a spider spinning a strand for her web out of her own body. Job, suffering with both physical and spiritual afflictions once prayed, “O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book!” (Job 19:23) I could tell him now, after having prayed that same prayer and seen it answered, Be careful what you pray for. No one has quoted me back to me yet, except the Spirit, who whispers over and over, “We are all of us, by the grace of God, more robust than we know.” I was so proud of that line, which closes my first published book. I knew the person who needed to read it, too, and it wasn’t me. I thought. Now it’s become the spider-web-strong line by which I can scramble up to the safety of my web’s center: the grace of God.

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