There are some things we can’t hear until we know we have a problem. We hear what we are ready to hear. I am familiar with a problem which I have to work with in my own life, and I expect some of you have to work with it as well, that has been with me a good part of my life. Is there an answer to this problem, or is it just inevitable and we will have to live with it gracefully, knowing it will never go away? This problem is especially acute for good people, people who are sensitized and want to be faithful and want to make a difference in the world—especially people who have heard God’s call on their lives and want to be faithful to that call. What is the problem that most good people have? It is being in overload, too busy, weighted down, with too much on our plates. We simply cannot keep up. Work piles up faster than I can work through the piles. Can I learn to work smarter? Am I just not sufficiently focused? Should I develop the capacity to work longer hours? I am often overwhelmed. I can’t take any more. And the “any more” is a given, almost always, and given in a form that I don’t know how to resist honorably. I have tried to be faithful, tried to be responsible, yet I am robbed of my spontaneity and joy.
As we grow and mature, we see more clearly what God’s dream is and we see the piece of that dream that God wants us to carry and embody. The piece seems enormous, yet we want to be faithful. We feel an increasing sense of responsibility as we mature, and we are given even more openness to the pain and suffering of others, much deeper than before, and we begin to carry pain that we didn’t carry before. We want to lessen that pain for other people. We cannot isolate ourselves from it because Jesus did not isolate from it, and yet we don’t know how to live with the suffering. We must do more. We also see in a new way the pervasive nature of evil. It is no longer a concept; we see it in the systems we live with every day. It is in our so-called “Spirit-led” systems. We are shocked when we see it is in our churches, which we love, and even more shocking, I find it is in me, and you find it is in you. Everything is connected. And as we get further along the journey, we can’t pull off what we could have pulled off when we were younger. No matter how hard we try, the oppositional forces are powerful and we are confronted by disillusionment. As we mature we also are given a deeper sense of urgency and an awareness of limited time so we feel “it” needs to happen soon. Our time for getting it done is getting shorter. Our sense of urgency leads us to assume new responsibilities without dropping any earlier ones. We give lip service to our finitude. We try to break our rightful limits.
These are just a few of the temptations of good people. If I haven’t named any of yours, you work on your own list.
Way down deep we know that this state of overload is not the way it is meant to be if we are gospel people. We have known it for a long time that it shouldn’t be this way but we haven’t been able to change. How should things be for us if we are developing and growing? Douglas Steere has stated it better than any person for me: “A saint is a person of large leisure.” By saint he means a person who is fully developed; not a saint in the halo sense, but a person who is really getting hold of it, living by the gospel—this will be a person of large leisure. Not overly busy, but with plenty of time, not wishing there was more, just grateful for the time there is and relaxing in it. Looking at our plate, if we are persons of large leisure, we can say it’s a wonderful plate. There’s not too much on it and not too little. It’s just right. Is this just wishful thinking, or can we live this way?
You don’t get the sense of his being harassed and burdened, even though his task was fairly impressive. He was to be the vindicator, the redeemer, the liberator of the whole creation. He had 33 years in which to do it, and only three public years. He simply had the task of freeing the whole created order from oppression, yet he doesn’t seem overly burdened, wondering how he will possibly get it done by bedtime. You don’t hear him talking to Abba at the end of the week, “What a crazy week! The pressures are about to do me in!” In fact, the interruptions were so relaxed that all these years later we’re still extracting wisdom from some of those encounters, like the woman at the well or his conversations with his enemies who were trying to entrap him.
With a trans-global task and three years to accomplish it in a public ministry, he was able to say at the end, “It is finished. Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Pretty amazing. We sense in this what it is to be wholly detached and, in one sense, indifferent to anything other than centering in God, trusting God. We sense this might hold for us an antidote to being overwhelmed in life and all the responsibilities it demands of us—centeredness. We talk about centering prayer, but centering prayer is just a way toward the goal of becoming a centered person, centered in the Source. This was the centeredness that Jesus knew, connected in and to the Center.
By nature, we are contingent creatures. To be unified, connected, we embrace our contingency and rest in our true Source, thus becoming our true selves. In our true nature we are love, and we fuse with our Source who is Love. This immersion, this fusion, in God is voluntary surrender of all control. That’s it. Just give up control. The nature of the relationship is to enter the flow of God’s life and to have utter confidence in this One who created it all and has promised to bring it to completion. I will not be trying to find a place of significant meaning or to be strong for God. I will not try to get hold of something significant that I can accomplish for God. I will simply be in the being of God, and recognize that being is in me. Not hoping it will break in one day; it has already happened. I am IN the being of God, utterly trusting. I have nothing to pull off. I just stay connected to the eternal realm.
N. Gordon Cosby was the founding minister of The Church of the Saviour. You can listen to the sermon from which this excerpt has been taken here. Other audio sermons are available here.