Reflection March 9

O Lord, open my lips,

       and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;

       you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

       a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:15-17


Last week I was sick. I cancelled several appointments and missed a couple events. Then it snowed, bringing more cancellations, more missed events. All of these were hard for me. I live for relationships. Building and deepening relationships, seeing and knowing others more fully, and even, at times, helping them see and know themselves more fully are my greatest joys and gifts. Seeing my relationship and other people’s relationships to God deepen through our relationships with one another is the place where, as Buechner said, “[My] greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.” Time spent building relationships has the highest value in my economy, which means that I feel most useful, most valuable, when that is what I am doing. Yet…last week I was sick. I cancelled several appointments and missed a couple events.

It is easy for me, when I am not doing the things that I love, the things that make me feel valuable, to feel worthless. It is easy for me to expect disaster to come to those relationships when I’m not all in, when I have to step back, slow down, or take a sick day, because my worth to them is relational, and therefore some of their own worth is tied to my presence. My love for relationships and drive to deepen them, even at great personal cost, are incredible gifts, for which I am incredibly grateful, but when they become an end in themselves, or when my worth begins to come from using them, they, like anything, begin to drag me down, along with the relationships I so much want to see grow. My focus is pulled from the God who lives and breathes life in each of us, to my own frantic efforts to breathe life into myself, those around me, our relationships. I become uncentered, unmoored, unstable, like a sand castle in the surf, or snowflakes on the wind.

But God is good and gracious, patient,and kind. He gives me sick days to remind me to slow down, cancellations to remind me that these are his people, his relationships, his gifts, and the world keeps turning without me. He humbles me, so that I can truly rise with him, truly live in that place where my greatest joy meets other’s greatest need, rather than struggling to use my greatest gifts to fix the world’s greatest problems. He gives me snow days to remind me to be still, to be quiet, to rest, to wait for him, to receive what he offers, and to be grateful. He grounds me, anchors me in his love, his presence, and breathes new life into me, even as I lie sick in bed. 

Seth Leach