Friday, February 20, 2009

A Need to Tell

While visiting an Episcopal church recently, the priest told a riveting story from a book by Garcia Marquez called The Shipwrecked Sailor. The story is true—one of a Columbian sailor who was shipwrecked and lost at sea for ten days. Finally, his life raft drifted onto a remote beach where a man and his dog discovered the sailor.

Barely clinging to life, the sailor begged the man, “Help me.” The man stared with bewilderment but gave no response. Again, the sailor, a bit more earnest, implored him, “Help me.” Finally, the man broke his silence, and with a tone of incredulity asked, “What happened to you!?”

The man’s question bore through the sailor and pressed upon his conscious mind a need he had not fully realized. The sailor's greatest need wasn’t for food, or water, or shelter. His greatest need was the need to tell. He needed to tell….what happened to him.

I know about a pressing, agonizing need to tell. I remember feeling that urgent need after I had our first child. The experience was so awful and so wonderful; so incredibly painful and astonishingly beautiful—and nothing I could every have imagined or had ever come close to experiencing before—so I needed to tell someone! I called my friend Janet, a mother who knew what it was like to give birth and I told her, in graphic detail, what happened. I needed to tell.

There have been other times in my life when pain, betrayal, confusion, hurt, and loss were so overwhelming that I needed to tell. The only way I knew how to recover, to find my way, to survive the onslaught of anguish was to process it with another who offered his or her safe, compassionate ear.

The priest who introduced me to this story related several passages of Scripture where the psalmist needed to tell; where the prophet Isaiah needed to tell; and where Jesus needed to tell. And then he circled back around and suggested that what we often discover in our need to tell is another person’s need to hear.

I appreciate someone naming for me a phenomenon as basic to being human as the need to eat and drink—the need to tell what has happened, or is happening. I am grateful for those in my life who indulge me and listen when I need to tell. And I am hopeful that, at least on occasion, someone I tell needs to hear.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Coming and Going of Life Together

As much as I dislike the fact, saying hello and goodbye to people, places, and seasons of life seems unavoidable. I am currently lamenting this unwelcome truth because one of those times for me has come. At the end of January, I ended my role as an interim associate minister in a church near my home.

My coming to this church was serendipitous. I met the pastor when I spoke at their women’s retreat and eventually joined the staff. From the beginning, I knew that when the congregation identified and called an ordained person, that would signal my time to leave. Though prepared, I still found the culmination difficult. I don’t like to say goodbye. I don’t like things to end. I don’t like to become uprooted from my place.

Yet, I know well enough that this movement is inevitable and, in the end, actually nurtures my life. Coming helps me become rooted and find my center. Going draws me out into the world and expands me.

In my last sermon, I talked about this phenomenon and wrote a coming and going prayer. We prayed it together, using a finger labyrinth—a beautiful symbol of coming and going. Here is a copy of my prayer. I have been praying it each morning, as I trace the labyrinth, and embrace the purpose of each motion.

The Coming and Going of Life Together
A Finger Labyrinth

A Coming Prayer:
Gracious God, the God who woos me,
draw me by Your Spirit through silence and stillness.
Help me find my way home.
Anchor me in Your love and grace
as I come to Christ in my weakness and
learn from His gentle and humble heart.
Give rest to my soul.

A Going Prayer:
Gracious God, the God who sends me,
lead me by Your Spirit with courage and strength.
Help me find my place in the world.
Fill me with joy from serving you
as I become Christ’s hands and feet and
learn to love as He has loved me.
Give vision to my soul.

Written for Christ the Savior by Beth Booram
1-25-09 (