In his book “Meditations of the Heart” (1953), Howard Thurman prays:
“Our little lives, our big problems—
these we place upon Thy altar!
The quietness in Thy Temple of Silence
again and again rebuffs us:
For some there is no discipline to hold them steady in the waiting
And the minds reject the noiseless invasion of Thy Spirit.
For some there is no will to offer what is central in the thoughts—
The confusion is so manifest,
there is no starting place to take hold…
The nights crowded with frenzied dreams and restless churnings.
We do not know how to do what we know to do.
We do not know how to be what we know to be.
Our little lives, our big problems—
these we place upon Thy altar!”
Recently, my associates and I had the privilege to pray for our church member in the parking lot. She sat on a little stool and we prayed for God’s sustaining power to hold her through the upcoming surgery. When my kids later asked what that was about, I told them, “We prayed for her healing.” It may have been an intriguing sight to them. Perhaps in their eyes, I may have appeared like a strong vessel containing spiritual gifts. But I know I’m just a broken vessel made of clay, remaining still but with undeniable dents and cracks.
I see how fragile I’ve become, both body and heart, since the pandemic began. Recently I heard a Conference staff express concern about how vulnerable we have all become – not just churches but pastors and parishioners alike. Many may think I’m one of those unshakable types, but I know I wouldn’t be able to stand without the grace of God. In “our little lives, our big problems,” there’s only so much that positive self-talk mantras can actually do. That is why it is time for us to seek the stream of living water, flowing down from God’s altar.
Something that I’ve been reflecting on lately is the advice to have the courage to be vulnerable – the courage to be fully present in moments of suffering. We live in a culture that encourages desensitizing pain. But going deeper into that pain, taking time to feel and reflect, then slowly rise can make us grow. Try remaining still after hitting the ground, and you will be able to rise with greater awe, how precious is the gift of life. This fall season, the Cross of Jesus calls to come closer, enter deeper, and dare to stay in the moment, as vulnerable as you are.
Life is fleeting and nothing lasts. But what eternally remains is the grace and love of God, and our Lord’s promise to abide with us forever. This fall season, may we have the courage to seek and experience how wide and long and deep is the grace of our God.