What do you want of me Lord? Where do You want me to serve You?
Where can I sing Your praises? I am Your song. “Servant Song” by Jess Viray
Last Holy Thursday I wrote a reflection on being a servant. I pondered Jesus’ willingness to do challenging tasks such as washing his apostles’ feet, curing lepers, and hanging out with society’s outcasts. He explained how all of these tasks or actions were in line with his vision and mission. My mission and vision are about empowering others to become the very best version of themselves either through academic or personal growth. I am not always willing to do the difficult tasks such as forgiving myself and others, empowering myself, or taking time to truly serve.
I resist mercy. One of the audiobooks I enjoyed during Lent was Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. I have enjoyed rediscovering Ms. Lamott. She is hilarious. I enjoy her honesty, wit and self-awareness. She has me cackling at times. I especially like how often she owns her pettiness and schadenfreude. I’m right there with her. These aspects of my personality are hilarious but they continue to stop my path towards holiness. So long as I am willing to catch a case for taking off on one of my enemies or even someone who merely annoyed me, I am not living out who I truly am. This is why I continue to pray for the strength to forgive myself for my flaws and to forgive others more readily.
For many decades, I resisted doing things for myself. Like most people, I usually sacrifice self-care due to work or family. I have gotten better over the years about self-care and self-development. But it often takes an illness or an injury to get me to slow down and truly listen to myself. Like most leaders, I am my own worst critic. It is very challenging to not see failures as personal. Being good to myself continues to be a process.
I miss having opportunities to serve. In the past few years, I joined colleagues and students to serve at Glide Memorial dining room during Advent and Lent. While I consistently volunteer for organizations that are personally important to me like Girls Inc, I also need to serve the homeless. I need to make service an integral part of what I do again. I need to make the time.
I am working towards being a servant in all aspects. Being a servant is not self-serving. It requires humility, dedication, patience, and strength.
This #transformationtuesday was one of setbacks. As I commuted through a rainstorm, I felt hopeless and helpless. At work, I was in charge for the day while managing ongoing crises and beginning the annual round of state testing. After having been horribly shrill with M for the second morning in a row, I cried as I drove through traffic over the East Bay hills.
Those moments of feeling completely overwhelmed make me question my plans and goals. I don’t know if I should pursue them. I don’t know if I’m ready for a bigger leadership role. I want to feel like I’m making a difference for the community I serve. But there are other goals that are closer to my heart. I want to write. I want to be a good mom. I’m in the middle of the storm. I’m trying to seek the eye and maintain hope. It’s hard for me to believe I can move forward calmly, peacefully, and successfully; I don’t know that I have the strength.
I accept that I will experience these trying moments. Like the day when I pictured myself sitting in the desert with the sun bearing down on me, I feel the rain pouring down on me. It makes me feel cold and unsure. Entiendo que son cosas de la vida; knowing that doesn’t make those times any easier.
On the 3rd Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading was about the Samaritan Woman at the Well. I’m reflecting on being that woman. I’ve been a lector at my new parish for two years and Eucharistic minister for almost a year. I think about do I deserve to be in front of all these people?
My involvement in parish ministry began during the darkest period of my life. There were times when I wondered if the church building wouldn’t collapse on my head. It didn’t. I found that the parish priests I worked with, no matter where they were on the spectrum of conservativeness, were always merciful, kind, compassionate, and patient. Over a decade later, I’m still on that journey to be spiritually healthy. When I proclaim the Word or share the Body and Blood of Christ, I feel like I’m getting closer to achieving peace. I feel like He’s working through me. I feel like I’m the very best person I could possibly be when I’m in that sacred time and space.
I’m well aware that I’m a sinful person. But I’ve been accepted, welcomed, and embraced. I won’t walk away from that. Even when my faith falters and I’m filled with doubt about the choices I’ve made in my life, even when I wonder if I’m worthy, I can’t walk away from what saved my life.
Yes, it’s living water! Yes, it changes people. So as long as I can, I will serve God in small ways and I won’t ashamed. It’s not me that’s up there speaking aloud. It’s not me serving. It’s Someone greater. Yes, how great Thou art!
Art by Liz Lemon Swindle
This season, my spiritual reading is Ronald Rolheiser’s Forgotten among the Lilies. In the chapter, “The Martyrdom of Obscurity,” Father Ron points out that so many of us don’t want to be anonymous. Many of us want to be known for being great writers, athletes, celebrities, or scientific achievers. Popular culture pushes us towards self-expression and its possible outcomes of fame and fortune. A previous chapter “Longing is our Spiritual Lot” discussed our constant state of restlessness. Our faith is calling us to be restless and anonymous. We are being called to be in an existential crisis at all times.
For many, existential crises can be daunting and could be possibly depressing and demoralizing. I am consistently in existential crisis. I go through periods of achievement, success and joy. Then I go through phases when I feel a great sense of disconnection, disappointment, malaise, lethargy. I don’t feel that restlessness in all areas of my life. I am fulfilled and happy when all is well with my child, when I help solve someone’s problem, and when I’m dancing. I have wonderful friends. Like all people, I face situations and periods in my life that challenge me.
I’ve always been called to write. I write because it’s my therapy and what I love to do and how I best express myself. Self-expression is important to me. I wrestle with anonymity. I do wish I could be one of the lucky ones who gets my book optioned for a movie or that I become a successful blogger turned bestseller like Luvvie Ajayi who I idolize(even though she’s younger than me!) It’s hard to be ordinary. The existential crises of being unknown and never feeling fulfilled are natural, human crises. These feelings have inspired great literature, scientific discoveries, and global travel. These yearnings have also resulted in horrible atrocities including manifest destiny and the global colorizations which cost so many lives and war. The need for recognition and satisfaction moves people.
There is humility and power in being unknown and forever longing. Growth happens in those moments of feeling small and unrecognized. My life sometimes feels small. Yet it is in those moments of smallness that are great. My daughter packs up the car because she knows I have an early morning. A colleague gives up their free time to help support the team. Those are great moments that the world will never know as TV ratings hits or cultural milestones written up in Rolling Stone or The Wall Street Journal. Our greatest moments are when we are there for each other with love and care. Being an ordinary person is enough.