Monday, November 4

The Table of Loss and Profit

So many days and nights I moved in-between slumber and wakefulness thinking about the people I lost. In those days of their absence more prayers happened for them, more tears shed for their health than all combined in the days when we used to share mission and meals and Christmas and Tuesdays.  Even when a new path was laid out for us, even when new friends said, "We're with you,"  I lagged behind wishing newness could, just this once, be retroactive.

But with this practice the days are presenting themselves to me now with import and profit.  Insight is resulting in a mindful closing, and the things of the past lay behind a thick curtain of protective memory.  It's no longer mine to captain or create, to fix or to form.

What is mine is faith and even that is a good gift from God; faith that is less a surrendering to God's will than it is an acceptance of my active role in God's future.*  And God's future now looks a lot like a table spread with pasta and sauce and bread and brownies.  One that is encircled by trust and openness and warm laughter.  It is the friends who lean over it and say, "We believe the same thing."  It is the fact that we sit around it dreaming and suggesting and envisioning what our role in that future could be.  When we sweep the plates away to move from stories to schedules excitement mounts. We can see it, we can taste it; this new future that faith has invited us to.

But just as the past doesn't own today the future doesn't trump it either.  In James 4:13-17, the merchants who announce that they'll travel about and trade and make a profit don't even consider that their pronouncement of "the way we're going to move forward" is so full of mist and obstruction that they won't just be wrong about the way forward, they'll actually vanish as a result.  It's not the planning that James is denouncing; it's the presumptive pride. The what-will-be cannot push aside the what-is.

What is now, what is today for us, is new and fragile.  It is reliant upon God's favor and direction.  It is risk and hope.  It is holding loosely what's in front of us, because at any point God could say, "Give it."

This table we eat and talk and work at represents today well.  It's a folding table.  Two weeks ago, here sat a proper table. Until one day it seemed appropriate for my friend to determine that he ought to trade it to a man for a motorcycle. To him it's of no real consequence. God will provide another proper table if he wills. He leaves room for the possibility that it might not turn out as he planned.  But today, all goodness is still given regardless of what we're leaning over to receive it.

Today I play an active role in God's future.  And if I only get to do it for today I did it with friends around a table set in hope and trust and love.

*I wish I could take credit for this idea about faith. It's from a message Barbara Brown Taylor gave to Duke University.