[Public Domain Image]
When traveling this weekend, I started reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. When it emerged in 2006, many of my friends and ministry colleagues read it. I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m finding it very valuable.
The large, narrative arc tells the story of Barbara Brown Taylor’s pain and faith transformation when she had to step away from her congregational ministry as a priest. She lifts up the dialectic of finding and losing faith as a process by which faith often finds us in new ways. It’s a good book.
But apart from that larger narrative arc, I’ve been pondering a particular passage too. She discusses a piece of wisdom that she gained from a friend:
When my friend Matilda lay dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, she said that she had been prepared all her life to choose between good and evil. What no one had prepared her for, she lamented, was to choose between the good, the better, and the best — and yet this capacity turned out to be the one she most needed as she watched the sands of her life run out.
I thought of her often as my time ran out each day. Out of the long list of things I had promised to be and do at my ordination, the “wholesome example” part was the one that gave me most pause. I spent a great deal of time trying to be good, but was good the same as whole?
This passage really grabbed me. In some ways, it brings home the importance of prioritizing who and what are most meaningful to us. But beyond personal ties or some sort of #lifegoals, I’m thinking about this as a statement of calling itself — particularly during this collective moment when we are indeed seeing and pondering the difference between good and evil.
What good can we offer? But more, what is our better contribution? And even more, what is our best gift? To our communities and world?
I’ve been telling myself this lately (which reveals I’ve been doing the opposite) — Don’t underestimate the contribution of your best gifts. Too often, I find myself devaluing what I am equipped to do best, not because I think it isn’t valuable and needed, but because I fear it isn’t enough in this current climate of need.
I suppose if it were out there by itself, it wouldn’t be enough. That would be true.
But this is not about being good individually or achieving some kind of ‘well done’ status. This is about being whole, both inwardly and collectively. When we add our contributions to the whole, and when we receive from the whole, we can form transformative movements for change.
So what best can we give? What best can we receive?