The 4th Commandment is, "You are to honor your father and mother."
Again, in reading from Luther's Large Catechism some of the detailed description and teaching caught my attention so I am sharing here a section of it to ponder.
This is from, "The Book of Concord" translated by Kolb and Wengert. It can be found on p.400-1 of the print edition on The First Commandment from the Large Catechism section.
So far we have learned the first three commandments, which are directed toward God. First, we are to trust, fear, and love God with our whole heart all our lives. Second, we should not misuse his holy name to support lies or any evil purpose whatsoever, but use it for the praise of God and the benefit and salvation of our neighbor and ourselves. Third, on holy days or days of rest we should diligently devote ourselves to God‘s Word so that all our conduct and life may be regulated by it. Now follow the other seven, which relate to our neighbor. Among these the first and greatest is:
"You are to honor your father and mother."
God has given this walk of life, fatherhood and motherhood, a special position of honor, higher than that of any other walk of life under it. Not only has he commanded us to love parents but to honor them. In regard to brothers, sisters, and neighbors in general he commands nothing higher than that we love them. But he distinguishes father and mother above all other persons on earth, and places them next to himself. For it is a much higher thing to honor than to love. Honor includes not only love, but also deference, humility, and modesty directed (so to speak) toward a majesty concealed within them. Honor requires us not only to address them affectionately and with high esteem, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and body, that we respect them very highly, and that next to God we give them the very highest place. For anyone whom we are wholeheartedly to honor, we must truly regard as high and great.
It must therefore be impressed on young people that they revere their parents as God‘s representatives, and to remember that, however lowly, poor, feeble, and eccentric they may be, they are still their mother and father, given by God. They are not to be deprived of their honor because of their ways or failings. Therefore, we are not to think of their persons, whatever they may be, but of the will of God, who has created and ordained it so. We are indeed all equal in God‘s sight, but among ourselves it is impossible for there not be this sort of inequality and proper distinction. Therefore God also commands that you are to obey me as your father and that I have authority over you.
First, then, learn what this commandment requires concerning honor to parents. You are to esteem them above all things and to value them as the most precious treasure on earth. Second, in your words you are also to behave respectfully toward them and are not to speak discourteously to them, to criticize them, or to take them to task, but rather to submit to them and hold your tongue, even if they go too far. Third, you are also to honor them by your actions, that is, with your body and possessions, serving them, helping them, and caring for them when they are old, sick, feeble, or poor; all this you should do not only cheerfully, but also with humility and reverence, doing it as if for God. Those who know how they are to cherish their parents in their hearts will not let them endure want or hunger, but will place them above and beside themselves and share with them all they have to the best of their ability.
The focus throughout this summer is on Luther's Small Catechism. We already focused on the 2 sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Now this first Sunday and Wednesday in July we are starting the 10 Commandments beginning with the first three commandments.
1st Commandment "You are to have no other gods."
2nd Commandment "You are not to take the name of God in vain."
3rd Commandment "You are to hallow the day of rest."
The preface statement to the 1st commandment is God saying, "I am, the Lord your God." It connects to the story of the burning bush when Moses heard God's name as "I am." In that encounter Moses took his shoes off because he was on holy ground connected to a song I was recently introduced to that you can find on YouTube here.
"Who's #1? God's #1." This is one way to think about the first commandment. A song starts off saying, "I thought #1 would always be me" but ends up saying, "I can't even walk without holding your hand" reminds me of this first commandment and the truth to remember. Listen to the song on YouTube here.
I also wanted to share in this space some of the insights from Luther's Large Catechism which gives more detailed teaching on these basics of faith. I find much of the language still fresh and engaging as Luther's passion for teaching and sharing the faith comes through.
This is from, "The Book of Concord" translated by Kolb and Wengert. It can be found on p.386-7 of the print edition on The First Commandment from the Large Catechism section.
"You are to have no other gods."
That is, you are to regard me alone as your God. What does this mean, and how is it to be understood? What does "to have a god" mean, or what is God?
Answer: A "god" is the term for that to which we are to look for all good and in which we are to find refuge in all need. Therefore, to have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart alone that make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true one.
Conversely, where your trust is false and wrong, there you do not have the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God.
The intention of this commandment, therefore, is to require true faith and confidence of the heart, which fly straight to the one true God and cling to him alone. What this means is: "See to it that you let me alone be your God, and never search for another." In other words: "Whatever good thing you lack, look to me for it and seek it from me, and whenever you suffer misfortune and distress, crawl to me and cling to me. I, I myself, will give you what you need and help you out of every danger. Only do not let your heart cling to or rest in anyone else."
So that it may be understood and remembered, I must explain this a little more plainly by citing some everyday examples of the opposite. There are some who think that they have God and everything they need when they have money and property; they trust in them and boast in them so stubbornly and securely that they care for no one else. They, too, have a god (mammon by name), that is, money and property—on which they set their whole heart. This is the most common idol on earth. Those who have money and property feel secure, happy, and fearless, as if they were sitting in the midst of paradise. On the other hand, those who have nothing doubt and despair as if they knew of no god at all. We will find very few who are cheerful, who do not fret and complain, if they do not have mammon. This desire for wealth clings and sticks to our nature all the way to the grave.
So, too, those who boast of great learning, wisdom, power, prestige, family, and honor and who trust in them have a god also, but not the one, true God. Notice again, how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are when they have such possessions, and how despondent they are when they lack them or when they are taken away. Therefore, I repeat, the correct interpretation of this commandment is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart trusts completely.
I feel that chapter 9 may be the most important chapter to read and reread in this book! It is called, “Remember Who You Are: Discerning Identity.” It is probably a universal experience to go through life asking the core question of, “Who am I?” I think of so many beloved stories, tales, and now movies that also deal with this question. We relate and connect to a character’s thoughts and actions as they search to discover and live out their true identity and we are drawn in. For Nouwen, spiritual discernment of our identity is in the claim that we are God’s beloved.
Nouwen references scripture often here as there are many quotes that bring this to bear and make a way for us to hear that we are the beloved daughters and sons of God. A central part of God’s story through Jesus is that we hear this for ourselves and live with that central core identity. It can be difficult to do in a culture and society today where we live out of so many constructed identities and realities. With the advent of social media, each person or institution can work on constructing what we want the world to see us as and claim attributes and an identity we desire. All the while trying to ignore anything else that may claim otherwise but having little control of what is posted or available to the world through the Internet.
We may feel the burden of being defined by our past, our achievements, our mistakes, our abilities, our family roles, or any number of other things we weigh our value or worth on and assigns a place of belonging or exile. Through reading this chapter we may discover or rediscover a theology and faith that reveals our core identity is in relationship to God as beloved children and having a place in the life and “family” of the divine. Some have said that the Bible is God’s love story or love letter to us. Even though much of the Bible as history etc. doesn’t feel like it fits this analogy, it can help remind us that the Bible makes sense through an existing acknowledgement and relationship with God. Certainly, some passages can meet our need for love and belonging as we see ourselves in the story and hearing the words of love from a loving God to and for us.
How does this relationship with God come about? We receive it like a gift. We open and enjoy it. It is not something we seek to attain or work toward. We accept it and acknowledge the relationship. Then the hard work is claiming it to the core where we live out of this beloved identity all the time and not get lost or distracted by something else. Yet, our brokenness is often revealed as humans where we are prone to stray and seek our own way and our own identity apart from anyone or anything else. One reality check is remembering that the Earth and universe does not revolve around us, and that truth is freeing.
So, we ask ourselves, “What is the center of our universe?” and “What is my identity in relation to that identity?” Nouwen writes that we are restored to our true selves as Jesus came into the world to give us a new spiritual life. A new identity of our true selves, no longer dependent on fragile and changing things of this world but rather on the eternal love between the Father and the Son which is experienced as the Holy Spirit. There is perfect unity in love and then we know God’s heart and spiritually discern who we are in relation to God and to see the world as God sees it. We are God’s beloved children. The marker of this is often Baptism where words and promises are made in community by God and others present. Being grounded in the waters of Baptism often helps provide a stable place to return and be refreshed as we are called to take on so many other roles in our daily living.
I really appreciated the way chapter 8 started out. With the title, “Open Your Heart: Discerning Divine Presence” Nouwen points us to the small things. To me this seems more “doable” and specific rather than trying to contemplate the abstract vastness and entirety of God’s divine presence. Nouwen conveys to us through his daily practice of an hour devoted to this relationship with God through quiet prayer and meditation. He too gets distracted and at times does not follow through because of fatigue, busyness, or distraction. When aware he has listened to these arguments for not having that time of prayer each day he begins to experience his days as, “a series of random incidents and accidents rather than divine appointments and encounters.”
It seems comforting and encouraging to hear from Nouwen that his times of prayer and meditation are not overly fulfilling for him and he even relates them as seemingly, “useless” times each day where his senses are not satisfied. Yet, these regular useless times must still have a powerful way of connecting him with the divine as he confesses that God is greater than his senses, his thoughts or his heart as he believes the Lord does speak to him, see him, and embrace him in those moments of prayer even if he is feeling restless, distracted, confused, or bored. Nouwen believes that God connects to him in ways and places that are hidden even to himself but through prayer, God’s subtleness, smallness, quietness, and hiddenness begin to sprout like a shoot coming forth from a stump.
The chapter continues by Nouwen exploring the scripture story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who experience the risen Christ (Luke 24:13-35). Nouwen names four practices in the pattern of discerning God’s hidden presence as he walks through in the scripture story and holds up for use in daily life. The pattern is marked by: interpretation of scripture, staying, breaking bread, and remembering.
As Jesus appeared and walked along with these two disciples he opened the scriptures to them beginning with Moses and all the prophets Jesus interpreted the things about himself to them. In the midst of their grief Jesus changes their view of the suffering and death of Jesus as fulfilling the scriptures which pointed to suffering, death, and pain not being obstacles of God’s glory or eternal life or marking God’s absence but that God’s presence embraced these and made a way to even experience God’s presence, glory, and eternal life through them.
As they came to the village Jesus walked ahead as if going on but the disciples urged him, “Stay with us…” Jesus doesn’t ask for an invitation but does accept theirs. The word and action of “staying” is similar to “abiding” or “remaining.” Staying with Jesus is often an inner staying and connection that is life-giving like hearing that a branch must stay connected to part of the vine to bear fruit.
Jesus enters the home with them and they suddenly recognize him in the particular way he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and offered it to others. This sitting down for a meal and giving thanks (Eucharist is the Greek word) is very ordinary and yet was so obvious and still different that now the disciples know who this stranger is and that Jesus is still with them in a resurrected body. The disciples experience Jesus in hospitality, companionship, and compassion in home tired from a journey.
Not long after the disciples recognize Jesus as their eyes are opened, then Jesus disappears from their sight. In the moment they recognize his presence he is no longer there with them. To say in another way, the time Jesus becomes most spiritually present he also becomes physically absent. This deep theological insight connects with communion with Jesus through the mystery of faith and the paradox of Christ being with us, yet we await his full return as well. Remembering wraps this encounter together and allows the disciples to know Jesus by heart. The burning heart experience they had revealed Jesus to them on their way and reminded them they were not alone.
This pattern of movements is discernable in our communion practice celebrating the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. May we be drawn close and connect with this Emmaus story each time we gather in our present reality for worship of Jesus, providing us a Holy Communion with the divine presence of God.
This chapter starts Part Three of the book addressing discerning vocation, presence, identity, and time. It is personal as we explore the call of God in us and our vocation. “What is God calling me to do?” “Where is God calling me to go?” “Where do I belong?” These questions are stated in the beginning of this chapter.
Nouwen relates there were often two inner voices that created a tension. I have experienced something similar and I am sure it can be named in many ways. One voice may say to stay while the other says to go. Nouwen names the tension for him in that one voice would say be your own person, be independent, make it your own, and make others proud. The other voice would say: whatever you do, even if not too interesting, stay close to the heart of Jesus and God’s love. He then relates with honesty the way he tried to appease and please both voices by becoming a hyphenated person of priest-psychologist.
I related to my time in seminary when conversations around bi-vocational calls were increasingly common and encouraged. Religious institutions were seeing the changes in our country where many pastor salaries do not keep up and provide compensation that matches the cost of the education they have and the job they are often asked to do. They saw that churches and religious institutions have been on the decline in recent decades and the money and resources are not present to have the same number of positions and level of compensation as before as costs increase. Bi-vocational calls seemed a good option as churches join together with shared financial arrangements for pastors and more churches look for part-time ministers. The Biblical precedent is there as well with Paul as a preacher and tent maker. The future looks to be increasingly going in this direction as less pastors come out of seminary at about half the rate of current pastors retiring. We are already seeing how churches and their leadership are and will look increasingly different in the future because of these changing circumstances.
Yet, as Nouwen points out, it can be challenging to live a hyphenated life. On one hand, it may seem convenient, or what needs to be done, trying to meet the needs of people and adjust to the circumstances. For Nouwen, in situations when being a priest wasn’t as welcome he could conveniently play up the, “Well I am a psychologist” part of his vocation and the other way around to fit in with his religious community. He could state the qualifications and credentials of being a priest or a psychologist when necessary. For Nouwen this was still an uneasy tension though as he did not feel much peace. Yet, through his life and discernment of his vocational calling, he reminded himself and others that God had a special role for each person to fulfill staying close to God's heart and being guided by God to know what the call is when you must know it. Nouwen seemed to find that peace as a chaplain at Daybreak, a L'Arche community in Toronto, where he lived in community with 50 handicapped or disabled persons and 50 assistants.
Then the question of, “Can I really do what God is calling me to do?” comes up. As parts of the call become clear, many times the answer seems to be "no" or "not yet." However, God is walking with us making what seems impossible, to actually be possible. We can, with God’s help, as obstacles are removed and new skills are learned and trust is built. Many steps along the way God is teaching and revealing to us something useful for the next step living more fully committed to God's will and God's way where God’s heart calls to each of us. Vocation refers to God's calling. It is not that we all take the public role of pastor, priest, rabbi, etc. As children of God we each have a deep vocation to daily proclaim by word and deed God’s love that we have come to know and see God active in the world. There is often much prayer and conversations that reveal affirmations from God about what way to go and what purpose to fulfill that is unique to each one of us while affirming our identity as beloved children of God.
Discerning the Signs of the Times. This chapter title connects us to our current situation and the way we see and interpret the significant events in our lives and throughout history as times that God is present and speaking to us.
I enjoyed reading together the chapter aloud and how as I turned the page and kept reading, I was coming across concepts I had recently referenced in a sermon. I was glad to know that what Nouwen was writing about these two concepts of time was pretty close to how I had talked about them. So I will share a bit about it again here.
"Kairos" is a word in Greek that can be used to point us to "God's time." While "chronos" is time that we relate to in minutes and seconds. "Chronos" is the sequential clock time which we use to order our days. However, discernment is usually in the language of "kairos" which is a quality of time that is full of meaning and often because God is seen to be the acting agent making or fulfilling promises. Shared another way is that a "kairos" moment serves a divine purpose. Discernment then is continually stopping or asking God in prayer, "What is the opportunity of this moment?" and "What are you wanting to show us today?" Nouwen references Thomas Merton as saying God's time is timeless. It brings together the past and the future in the present eternal moment. So we can connect to quality "kairos" time through practices of silent prayer but often these "kairos" moments are more of the memorable moments and significant experiences in our lives that stay with us and continue to shape us.
It seems many generations have at least one significant event that unites people in a common experience and narrative. These are those moments when we say, "I remember it like it was yesterday..." or "I'll never forget where I was when that happened..." Examples might be when JFK was shot, or when astronauts landed on the moon, or when the space shuttle exploded, or the Twin Towers came down, or many other things. These are the signs of the times whereas we all have moments in our own individual lives that we remember of significant life events but this chapter focused on the large events that had broad impact on shaping people, culture, and nations. Wars and revolutions certainly have this impact.
References were again shared about Thomas Merton's life by revealing the signposts along the way seen as pointing to God's will for his life. A year after World War II began in 1939 Merton entered a Trappist Order in Kentucky and as a monk wrote constantly about what the world was engaged in. In the midst of so much being taken from people, Merton clearly saw that voluntary poverty not only helped prevent violence but freed him to work for peace where there seemed to be danger all around. In the 1960's Merton wrote about he Civil Rights Movement. For Merton these significant events were historic opportunities to collectively see oppression and be faced with the systematic injustice embedded in the culture. Merton wrote many influential books before he died in 1968. Here is a short clip of Richard Rohr speaking of Merton's ability to see at a higher level.
These were "kairos" moments for many in the broad culture to come to grips with a reality they knew they could not escape and felt guilt in being part of. These "kairos" moments open us up to new possibilities and constant opportunities to be transformed and have a change of heart. They sometimes begin the process of confession and asking for forgiveness to be reconciled and start again in a new direction. Sometimes on my small micro level I have related to moments in daily life that seemed like an overly dramatic distraction taking my attention away from what was important in ministry. Then I found out that what I thought was a distraction from connecting to God was actually the way I was invited into a new and real experience of what God wanted to show me. It is a continual struggle but I try to see what seems to be a distraction to what is planned or a failure as an opportunity to be open to God's presence wanting to have a "teachable moment" with me. Like Matthew 13:9 reminds us who have ears should listen.
This chapter invited the group to consider discernment through people we meet. Do we hear God speaking to us through people we meet in our daily lives? I think this is a good question and draws me into being more aware of how often God may be speaking to me and maybe through unexpected people I meet in my day.
Nouwen wrote of when he met Mother Teresa and how she listened to his elaborate explanation of trials and complications asking her advise and she responded "from above" pointing him to the divine presence. A response "from below" may have helped him understand his problems and distractions more but what remained was the call to live closer to the heart of God. The spiritual life is interested in living in the presence of God and considers this the greater or primary call. The gift of discernment is to have the ability to hear and see from God's perspective. From that point of view you may have the gift to offer others like the experience with Mother Teresa offered him.
The rest of this chapter described a handful of people that Nouwen had been impacted by and what he learned by hearing important words from them. The most striking thing that I want to highlight from this section was that Nouwen recognized through a challenged relationship that he had been trying to meet his needs from God through his friend. His friend could not provide what was sought because the friend was not God. The relationship was strained because of this and eventually broke because of the dependency that developed. The realization was that Nouwen needed to forgive his friend for not being God. Then he could also start healing and reconcile the relationship to start again accepting the gifts of the relationship without imposing impossible demands that could not be met by another human being.
I wondered how often we do seek to fulfill impossible needs in a relationship. It seemed insightful and I am still pondering that phrase of forgiving someone for not being God. Also, forgiving ourselves for projecting that on someone. We have limited abilities to provide for each other but God is where we find our security and stability no matter what happens. The healing for Nouwen began as he was reminded to claim his "belovedness" in God's eyes. For me I see here the connection to Baptism as a time and event that happens and we can hold on to that God claims us a beloved children. As I have spent more time recently with our young adults preparing for Confirmation I have been gladdened to hear their expressions of faith and look forward to celebrating with them as they affirm God's claim in when they were baptized. May it be a day of celebration and peace knowing God is faithful.
This week we enjoyed a 4 minute time of silent meditation and listening. Also, I realized it turned out that we had been doing 4 minutes or so instead of 2 minutes each time. Made me laugh to think my little sand timer was twice as long as I thought. Anyway, it seems we have enjoyed the time and it has been the same each time. I am also reminded of a useful and free app called "Insight Timer". The free version allows you to set an amount of time which then begins and ends with a tone. Check it out here: https://insighttimer.com/
Chapter 4 drew us into considering nature as a book to be read, a source of discerning God in our midst. I certainly love to be outdoors and have wonderful memories of hiking and backpacking through the Appalachian mountains. I also just enjoy walking and find it a good and natural time I have conversations with God. I notice the plants, animals, rocks, clouds, etc. Sometimes I see what has changed if it is a path I walk often. Sometimes I pick up trash along the way (for a while I consistently kept a plastic bag or two in my coat pocket to pick up trash or recyclables along my walk). Taking walks for me helps me reconnect to myself and God. I often come away refreshed, thankful, and educated.
Henri Nouwen shared about a time Abbot John Eudes shared a story while at the Abbey of the Genesee. He expressed that God is not far from us. God's presence is in the things that are closest to us. Walking into a garden embrace the present moment as you look at each individual flower. It seems the more beautiful and effervescent the more fragile its life. If we try to grasp it too firmly the beauty goes away as the petals fall. It is to be held onto lightly with an attentive gaze or we miss it and it slips away.
We can learn from Native Americans to see ourselves as part of nature. Often the culture, artwork, and life is so connected to nature it is natural to see yourself as one part of the whole. They know how to listen to what the Earth, as God's body, has to teach. I really connected to Nouwen sharing the contrast of "opaque" and "transparent" in this description: "When a tree is nothing but a potential chair, it ceases to tell us much about growth; when a river is only a dumping place for industrial wastes, it can no longer speak to us about movement; and when a flower is nothing more than a model for a plastic decoration, it has little to say about the simple beauty of life." Only when listening carefully and with deep respect can nature become transparent and reveal to us meaning as part of God's language.
The part reminding us of how Jesus walked with us on Earth were impact to the point that I will hear scripture differently now paying attention to how Jesus experienced life, spoke about it, and interacted with those he met. Jesus felt the heat and cold, the wet and dry, the dust and mud. He knew the grass that withers, the rocky soil, and thorny bushes. He also knew the flowers in the field, the abundant harvest, and the species of trees. Jesus walked the dusty roads closely connected to the earthen ground. He walked from village to village and listened deeply to those he met along the way. He spoke with authority to them as a true companion on the road. May we listen and hear.
This is the 3rd chapter of Discernment called, "Read the Way Forward" is into the second part of the book called, "Discerning Guidance in Books, Nature, People, and Events." One main point as we started this chapter was hearing that we do not discern alone. We turn to religion, traditions, and reading other's stories and the recorded wisdom they gained during their own journey. The other key to start us off in this chapter was that "spiritual reading" is different than reading for knowledge or gathering information. Reading spiritual writings in a spiritual way is part of discernment. There is truth in knowing we can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters and not become spiritual people. Discernment is a practice of opening our hearts and listening to what God is saying to us.
At times I realize how, "not present" I am in my daily life as I think and plan far ahead or dwell on things past. Listening and discerning draws my focus to the present moment and to the action of what God is up to in my midst. There are many ways to read in a spiritual manner. I think back to Lent as a time when I was intentional about engaging our public practice of reading the scripture during worship and then asking, "What did you hear? What did you notice?"
Another practice is to read a passage of scripture aloud numerous times and sometimes by different people. Holding silence between each reading allows time to listen and let the reading sink in. Sometimes we may ask a different question during each silence like: "What caught by attention?" "What am I prompted to pray about?" "What gift is offered that I might receive?" "How is God guiding me in our relationship?" This is similar to Lectio Divina, a practice of spiritual reading, which I have heard summarized as asking these questions of a scripture. What does the text say? What is God saying to me through the text? What do I want to say to God about the text? What action am I moved to do?
A final thought to share is as part of our sharing in the group we recognized that some of the people mentioned were from Northern Africa, specifically the Egyptian desert abbas and ammas (fathers and mothers) known for their wisdom. This would mean that they would not look exactly like us of European and Scandinavian heritage. Like our depictions and images of Jesus often have similar characteristics of our own group, I remember thinking many of the saints I learned about were old white guys. Really we get to see in hear over a long history that there are young and old, men and women, rich and poor, powerful and powerless people that have and continue to live faithful lives in relationship with God. May we see the ways we and those we are connected with in this community are part of God's story.
I enjoyed the gathering this past Tuesday for Morning Meditations as we read chapter 2 called, "Distinguishing Spirits of Truth and Falsehood." After checking in and a little discussion, we decided to move the start time to 8am rather than 7am considering the lessening light and increasing cold in the coming months. So next Tuesday, October 4th, we will begin meeting from 8am to 9am for a Morning Meditation and reading chapter 3 of Discernment.
Our practice began with a time of sitting in silence for a couple minutes. A few people commented that it did not seem as long as last time. I imagine each of our experience will be different and as we continue the practice I recognize each time will be different yet maybe still more familiar. I have experienced times of meditation and prayer when time flies by and other experiences when time seems to crawl by and that is when I am so wound up, distracted, anxious, or scattered that my ability to focus, relax, breathe, and actually be present is near impossible. All this said, I am certainly enjoying the practice with a group and getting some feedback as to what the experience is like for others.
A couple things have stuck with me since we met. As I reflect on what we read and other comments two things stood out. First, that often the biggest obstacle and greatest temptation is self-rejection, to think we are not enough or unlovable. Second, is that often a person's story is helpful to understand a concept or truth actually making a connection to it because it can be seen in someone's life. I am sure I will continue to reflect of both of these long after this week.
Self-rejection is when we have experienced ourselves as worthless, useless, or nobody special. The comparison to being humble was made in this chapter and I found that to be helpful to reiterate that "being humble" has nothing to do with self-rejection. Actually, just the opposite, as "being humble" requires a deep self-respect knowing who you are, your gifts and abilities, as well as not claiming to be something more because who you are is enough. Being humble starts with acknowledging our core identity as a "beloved" child of God, which is enough. This reminds me of how Martin Luther would splash water on his face and remember he was baptized when feeling fearful, discouraged, or not enough.
A person's story can help illustrate many things. Even as we may think of Martin Luther and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year we acknowledge there are many people and many stories that influence our lives and our faith. Chapter 2 referenced a number of saints but spent more time on Marthe Robin who was unknown to me. It was a fascinating story to read and imagine what her life was like and those who interacted with her. I am encouraged to look up more about people I have heard of but even more to find more ways we might gather and share some of our stories that might be encouraging to each other.