Skip to main content

together

Yesterday I spent 3 hours at my university campus. It is interesting how one can be surrounded by thousands of people and still feel quite alone. I ate my supper in a large student lounge area and tried to prepare for a Bible study later that night. Nothing much was inspiring me and God seemed remote and distant. I have been living with a sense of displacement lately. I am not exactly sure where or with which group of people I belong. I enjoy my studies and my colleagues, but I don't feel totally at home there. I love the people I encounter in my faith community, but we are in flux right now as well, changing places and dynamics and comfort zones. Many of my friends are at a crossroads or on a bridge in their lives and that affects how we relate to each other.

So I was walking towards the library yesterday afternoon and talking to God. I began my usual litany and realised that my heart just wasn't in it. If I was going to be talking to the most powerful and interested party in the universe, what did I really want to say? What was the cry at the core of my being? I just want to be loved. Yes, God, I just want to know that I am loved today. And I left it at that. A few steps later, I thought I heard something, so I checked my phone. There was a text message from my friend, saying, "Matte, I hug you from here..."

A few hours later I was walking again, this time away from the library and towards a friend's house. As is my habit, I usually converse with God while I am walking. It has been my practice lately to ask God for a gift every day. His choice. I am working at becoming a better receiver, a more open person instead of an island, and the one I most want to be open to is God, so I have been trying to practice receiving whatever he has for me. However, this afternoon, a different prayer came from my mouth for some reason. Instead of asking God for a gift, I asked if I could be a gift to someone.

About a minute later, I came upon a lady standing at one of the street corners, holding a piece of paper. She caught my eye and started in my direction. I began to sidestep her and raise a hand to let her know that, sorry, I was not interested in hearing her sad story and giving her money. But her question, in French, was not about money. It was asking for help with finding an address, so I stopped and looked at the paper.

She pointed to the street signs at the corner and told me how she was having trouble finding the correct number. We glanced at the paper together, and she realised that she was not on the right street. I pointed her in the right direction, and we walked together for a bit. She told me she had been wandering around for 15 minutes, unable to find her way to her destination. She had come out of the metro and taken a wrong turn, it seemed, and ended up blocks away from where she should be. In frustration, she said, "I'm so stupid!" I gently disagreed with her and pointed out that it wasn't that much further. We walked together for a few blocks, not saying much, and arrived at the correct street. She held out the paper to me again, asking me to help her find the specific address. I turned in a circle on the street corner, looking for numbers, and then spotted them on a building across the street. I showed it to her and she smiled, relieved.

As she crossed the street and headed off to her destination, she called back to me. "Merci beaucoup. Vous ĂȘtes un ange." Then she repeated it in English, just to make sure that I understood. "You are an angel!" I smiled in acknowledgement of her gratitude and stood there, watching until she had safely entered the building. Then I realised that I had just been a gift to that woman.

There is nothing magic about my prayers, nothing at all. Many days I ask for things to change and nothing seems to happen. But this day, after these two experiences, I heard a still, small voice say: "Do you see what happens when you are in agreement with me? When you are real and open and unselfish?" I was quite overwhelmed by the simple power of walking with God and walking with another person.

Today my prayer is: God, I want to do something together with you.

This is the park near my house on a beautiful fall day earlier this week.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

building the church

Imagine two scenarios: 1) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Ask them to come together and put their sticks onto a table. Invariably, you end up with a random pile of sticks on a table. 2) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Show a picture of a popsicle stick bird feeder and ask people to come together and put their sticks on a table according to the picture. You will end up with the beginnings of a bird feeder on a table.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both, each person brought what they had and contributed it to the collective. However, in the first scenario, there were no guidelines, no plan, and no right or wrong way to pile the sticks. People came, placed their sticks on the table, and walked away. In the second scenario, people were given a plan to follow and as a result, something specific was built. Instead of walking away after they made their contribution, people huddled around the table to watch what was being built. Some were…