I have never been so scared as I am right now.
Having completed nearly everything on the proverbial To-Do List of Life, last year I unearthed a voice I had always assumed was the provenance of those wiser than me. This voice doesn’t feast on goals, milestones, accomplishments, or expectations. Its siren song to freedom rings loudly, but I don’t know whether to go left or right, up or down. I yearn for something to steady my feet and light my path.
Is this a journey to the heart of God or an attempt to shore up self-confidence and invincibility?
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Truth of the matter is I’ve had a hard time trusting myself lately…trusting that I know what I’m doing…trusting that I won’t lose myself in melancholy’s relentless grip…trusting that I won’t search for easy answers bound for heartache and pain…trusting that I’ll love myself and others without hoping for something more…Trusting there’s mercy still enough for me.
Is this an honest confession or a rite of half-assed repentance?
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
There’s a soft orange blanket I love to wrap myself in when I pray. I watch my chest rise and fall and hope my words become more than words. I hope my dreams are more than naïve wistfulness and youthful idealism. I hope I am listening to God and not everyone else.
Is this an outpouring of trust in God or a wish list of demands and expectations?
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Each day I listen to the heartache of others and hold their hands. I offer their cries to God and plead for mercy on their behalf. For a moment, I get lost in the mystery and holiness of it all. I know I don’t deserve to be here, but grace has ensured I belong. There’s no other place I’d rather be.
Perhaps, all is not in vain.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
In spite of myself I long for nothing more than to rest in the God who has engraved me in the palm of Her hand. I long to taste the bliss of union with the risen Christ. I long for more than this world can afford. Is this presumptuous of me?
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
How quickly, though, the praise of others seduces me with promises of security; for a moment there’s a spring in my step: “You have a way with words,” they say. A few days later, as I put pen to paper to compose another sermon, write another essay, pray another prayer, I struggle to distinguish between their voices and God’s.
Am I embracing my gifts or shoring up self-worth?
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
This is why I don’t trust myself: I long for home, but not yet. I hearken to the words of my childhood pastor. He often ended his sermons with his melodic baritone booming in the rafters: “I’m going home on the mornin’ train. You’re goin’ home on the mornin’ train. All of us are goin’ home on the mornin’ train. Some of us gonna get there a little sooner.” So, with my heart torn yet determined, I trudge on—back and forth…back and forth.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Far too often I get lost in my thoughts and fail to notice the life around me. Beauty, however, will only let me ignore him for so long. Stopped in my tracks, I take notice: a sunbathing turtle, a smiling octogenarian blowing out his birthday candles, my own soft brown skin holding up that polished silver chalice of wine over the altar for the ones I love: “Behold who you are. Become what you receive.” Who knew such simplicity could overtake this fragile heart of mine?
Here’s my heart,
O take and seal it,
That’s when I hear Her calling me home. She’s been there all along, hasn’t She?
I laugh in fear’s face and climb aboard.
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Maria Kane is an Episcopal priest, writer, historian, and proud ex-pat Texan. She currently serves as rector St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waldorf, Maryland.