Friday night. I’m working my way through a stack of ironing. I need something to wear tomorrow.
Actually, ironing helps right now, given the mood I’m in.
I wish I hadn’t agreed to ride up to Portland tomorrow for a high school reunion lunch. My imagination is in overdrive.
I imagine the conversation will be all about failed dreams, infirm spouses, adorable grandchildren. Retirement, vacation homes, knee replacements.
I imagine how hard I will work to find purchase in the conversation. These women hung together back then, and have hung together ever since. I am not part of that conversation.
I imagine how exhausted I will feel, trying to fit in. But I have no interest in fitting in. The mere thought of trying to fit in exhausts me.
And irritates me. So I pay attention, right now, to this homely activity of ironing. At least it’s a distraction.
But what is this interior agitation trying to tell me?
I don’t want to deal with it now. It’s late. I am going to bed.
Saturday morning. In this hour before dawn, the glow of the oil lamp before the sacred icon of Holy Trinity on my prayer table beckons me back to center.
I know that I cannot carry my unsettled heart into the new day. My stinky attitude must yield to something better.
I know that I must invite the Lord into the conversation.
Interiorly something shifts. It always does, when I invite the Lord into the conversation. The agitation I feel says it’s all about me. But’s not about me. Rehearsing my discomfort at feeling like an oddball among classmates I never was particularly close to is not, is not … an exercise in love.
And in an instant the walls of resistance fall away from my heart. The burden lifts.
I recall the words of the Master: Take my yoke upon you, he says. Not the yoke of fear and resistance, but the yoke of love. For my yoke is easy, my burden light.
The yoke of love does not chafe. The yoke of love is no burden at all. Not really.
And now comes the assignment. If I am going to be with others, and it’s not about me, then of course I have an assignment.
The assignment is this: To discern God’s love for each of these women, several of whom I have not seen in nearly fifty years. To encounter each one, and regard each one, as everlastingly beloved of the Lord. And to give them space to talk about whatever they want to share. To defend a space for their humanity, especially because their journey is different from mine.
My assignment is to shift from an attitude of preemptive exclusion to one of inclusion.
Sunday morning. I look again at this assignment, to “discern God’s love” for each of these women with whom I shared lunch yesterday.
How do you “discern God’s love” for another? I need to know, because this phrase keeps coming to me.
It means, I discover, to encounter the other, to make space for the humanity of the other, whether this is Becky or Kit or Gayle or any of the others at the lunch table. Or Anthony or Gonzalo downtown in their wheelchairs.
Discerning God’s love for these others means to cut away my perceptions and judgments, so that I can see what God would have me see: the humanity and dignity and inherent worthiness in each other.
Discerning God’s love applies as well to those whose words and actions I cannot tolerate.
This conversion of heart is not over. Well, maybe it is with my former classmates. But what about the people who irritate me now? The list isn’t long, but I do have one.
Conversion of heart doesn’t just happen. A day comes when the invitation arrives. It can arrive at any time. It arrives often. Daily.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.