Sunday, March 26, 2006

To my words give grace

It has been a long Sunday, full of Lutheran music, Lutheran hymns, words, ideas ("Give up guilt for Lent") and questions to prompt more thinking and more words.

But it is Sabbath and my mind needs a rest. Maybe it's better to bypass the thinking and relax. Where is it in the Bible that Jesus says someone--Pharisees, probably--think they will be heard for their "much speaking"? My "much thinking" must fall in the same category -- something that needs to be let go of sometimes. So no picking my way through all the ideas and images of the day to create complex connections. Instead, just a few words to take into the week.

Words from this morning's sermon, quoted from some ultra-Lutheran writing of the Reformation era. "God's love does not find what is attractive to it. It creates it."

More words, from a hymn sung this afternoon: "But when, within my place/ I must and ought to speak/Then to my words give grace."

The grace in the words comes from God's love, which has created them in me.

There have been times in my life when I have listened as others have found graceful words for critical moments. The word of comfort, the word that exhorts and persuades someone in trouble to accept help, the words that explain sad realities while protecting us from despair and confusion. I have spoken these words myself, to my friends, about their deepest troubles; to my children, about sorrows we share and about growing in good ways from those sorrows. And I have heard them spoken to me.

It is a remarkable experience to find those words, to hear them come from your mouth, even as they form in your brain. Somehow the circumstances that call for them are never situations I've rehearsed in my mind. I am forced to improvise, in the middle of other things. Exhale, relax the mind, listen with the heart, and let God's love create the words.

Okay, yeah, in moments like that my brain is still zinging around, editing, revising, searching for a theme. Trying to enter the other person's experience, to identify what she or he needs to hear, and find some truth that matches that need. Leave out the cruddy stuff. Share fears, don't feed them. And rely on the power of God's transforming love.

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