By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]My least favorite part of the day is announcing bedtime. On the best of days, my children willingly go upstairs to change their clothes, brush their teeth, and hear a story before they close their eyes for the night. Most days, however, there is a bit of whining, a little more begging, and eventually a proliferation of stomping feet – all with the purpose of controlling when bedtime will begin. There are days I laugh at the absurdity of it all. And then there are other days, where I am left shaking my head in frustration.
It was quite the revelation when I realized that I am not much better than my five year olds.
Last year at this time, I had just told my former congregation that I would be leaving to begin the superintendency in July. It was a difficult decision to make and it was even more challenging to tell people whom I had grown to care deeply for. During this time, I raised my arms at God and even did a bit of yelling. I believed then, and still do now, that God called me to this place. Yet, even though I may no longer be yelling, I still find myself whining and stomping my feet as moments of ‘bedtime’ approach.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of the word humble. Google defines humble as: “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance” and “of low social, administrative, or political rank.”
Richard Rohr in his book, Eager to Love, suggests that humility is about remembering that we are not in control and in developing a willingness to give ourselves over to a higher power.
For someone (like myself) who likes to be in control, learning to be humble and to let go is one of the most difficult lessons. It requires us to acknowledge that we may not be right, and that any number of important decisions may not be ours to make.
As difficult as this is, learning to be humble and let go is also freeing. While I still have responsibilities, there are limits and not everything depends upon me. The ultimate outcome is not mine alone to decide. I can provide information, suggestions, and even possible outcomes; but at the end of the day, I am not in control.
As I have reflected on my own journey with this word, I’ve come to wonder if the church isn’t a bit like my children. Are we doing our own version of whining and begging so that God might relent and allow us to continue to do church our way? Are we stomping our feet because we can’t recognize that the church models that served a generation so well are too tired to continue to do so today?
Are we resisting bedtime because we won’t relinquish control to God for what church is?
I am reminded of the rich man in the Gospel of Mark who comes to Jesus to ask what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. The man says he has done all of this and asks what else must he do. Jesus responds by saying, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor…then come, follow me.” Of course we know that, sadly, the rich man went away grieving because he had many possessions.
Jesus invites us to give up all we have, as individuals and as the church; we are to give our things to the poor, and come, and follow him. We must trade control of our traditions, our understandings, and even our lives for the uncertainty of God. It is in giving ourselves over to God that we find true joy. We must become humble in order to gain an abundant life.
I hope you will join me in giving up control over our lives, and even the church, as we humble ourselves before God. Perhaps in doing so, we will (re)discover freedom in Christ as we find purpose in appropriate responsibility, learn to follow where the Holy Spirit leads, and avoid regular tantrums about things that are ultimately good for us like bedtime.