[From a talk given on Laity Sunday, 2000]
Its Friday morning after a really long week and I’m struggling to wake up. I can barely open even one eye at a time to find the coffee pot in the kitchen. I sink down into my corner of the couch with my coffee and my muddled head and try to find a way to face the day.
Then Tim comes in. He’s been up at least an hour. He’s dressed and ready for work and he leans over the couch to kiss me goodbye and he says, “I love you.” And he is out the door.
It’s not the coffee that makes the morning. It’s the kiss.
We go on youth mission trip and we spend – what? – maybe 12 hours in a bus. By the time we get where we are going our clothes and our spirits can be pretty rumpled. Often, when we go on these trips, we sleep on the floor in a space made for half our number and 50 of us share a couple of bathrooms and then go out to sweat in the sun.
Then I see one of our kids running down a dirty street in a barrio, playing soccer with the kids from that neighborhood. They can’t really even speak the same language – but they are connected by the sheer exuberance of the game. Or you see them, late that night, doing some funky break-dance or playing a silly card game and you see the way they give each other the full freedom to be who they are.
It’s not that they don’t know each other’s faults and foibles — they’ve been together long enough to know those pretty well. But in their time together, their hearts have grown large enough to handle that. They hold within their friendship a grace that gives each one the room to grow.
You go to Sunday school, and week by week it doesn’t seem like much. You greet your friends and eat a donut and listen to a lesson and maybe duck when they ask for volunteers to teach next week. Then someone says something that opens a window to that very piece of reality that you were trying hard to ignore. Or two or three in conversation build an idea that resonates with more than logic – it rings true.
You have a group of friends you meet with regularly. There is no real agenda to your meetings, except that you are together. You listen to each other’s stories and share each other’s hopes and disappointments. You simply enjoying being in the presence of consistent friendship. It shores up your soul.
And, when times get really tough, you find that the accumulated time together helps you hold the shattered pieces of your soul in place. When you can barely breathe for the pain, you find this fellowship, somehow, is breathing for you – they lend you their faith and hold you on.
So … just what is faith?
I’m not sure I can define it, but I can tell you what it feels like. It’s a mystery and a miracle – built upon the mundane. It’s life, peeking through the dailyness of our days. It’s less about what is in your head, and more about what steadies your heart.
Now, I have to admit that I don’t think you can make faith grow any more than you can make a flower grow. But you can put a flower in the sun. We can put ourselves in places where growth is likely to be nurtured and then open ourselves to the possibility.
Of course, these kinds of experiences – the things that I’ve described, these chances to grow – can be found in many places. I don’t have to go to church or go on a mission trip or join a Sunday school class or a small group to touch these things.
After all, God wants flowers to grow. If they don’t grow, they wither. The Christ sneaks it in in every way he can. He is that interested in making the connection. He’s often comes in human form. Once fully, and many times in pieces, here and there. He is the sun, seeking the flower – he can make it grow.
But I have to tell you that there are places where it is not so safe to open yourself to whatever may come. There are places where the touch of other lives is not so gracious. There are those who would cut the flower to use it for their needs.
When you find a place that you can trust – it’s worth coming back to. And come back you must, for it is the coming, again and again and again, that provides the sunshine that grows your faith. Growing takes time.
So, I encourage you to look for a place where the flowers grow.
Look for the places where the soil is rich for the flower’s toes and where there is sunshine to kiss the flower’s cheek.
If you need some help to make it through the muddle of your days, look for these places, these times, these people. Take the time to dig your toes into the deep, rich soil. Turn your cheek toward the sun.
Remember, it is the kiss that makes the morning.
[photo by Steve Walker Photography per cc 2.0]
I so loved and needed this today. Thank you for these words.
Russell, you are one of those people for me. Even though we see each other sporadically, each time we do, I grow a bit. Thank you.