by Lindsey Funtik, Coordinator of Volunteer Ministries, Ashland First United Methodist Church, Ashland, Ohio.
I have a complicated relationship with mornings. I'm not the kind of person that rolls out of bed and cannot function until I have coffee (in fact, I've been told that I'm a little too chipper bright and early), but I also find it hard to squeeze all that I want out of the early hours. I love that my Sabbath mornings consist of coffee and long stretches of time with Jesus, and I desire that for the rest of the days of the week, but I have a hard time making it happen. It would require some extra effort and, by the time I spring out of bed and throw on some clothes, it's usually time to get out of the house and begin. I'm always rip-roaring-ready to get started on the work day and slowing down enough for significant devotions during the week takes a lot of discipline.
Because this is the eternal balancing act for me, I love finding resources that aid in the endeavor. One such tool is an app called Lectio 365, which was recommended to me by a friend that continues to play a huge role in helping me to nuzzle closer to the Lord. Basically, Lectio 365 offers a ten minute meditation every day. It always includes Scripture, prayer, and a few insights on which to chew. I love it and I cannot recommend it enough. Thanks to its presence in my life, the car ride to work is now a time not of obsessing over the upcoming schedule, but of taking just a few minutes to focus my consciousness on God and hand the day over to Him. I want to get better about my priorities in the morning, and this is a good first step.
On Monday, the 21st, Lectio 365 celebrated the Feast Day of Henri Nouwen. He was a Dutch priest who dedicated his life to knowing the Lord intimately and serving others wholeheartedly, which he did in his ministry at the L'Arche community in France and Canada. His writings have been deeply influential for me and for countless others (if you've never read Nouwen, get yourself to the library!), and I was particularly struck by one of his prayers that was shared as part of the Lectio 365 devotion for the day. He wrote:
"I so much want to be in control. I want to be the master of my own destiny. Still I know that You are saying, 'Let me take you by the hand and lead you. Accept my love and trust that where I will bring you, the deepest desires of your heart will be fulfilled.' Lord I open my hands to receive your gift of love. Amen."
I relate to every inch of humanity that Nouwen showcases here (who doesn't want to be in control?), but I was particularly struck by the Lord’s words through Nouwen’s pen: "…where I will bring you, the deepest desire of your heart will be fulfilled." There is so much promise in this statement, and it has been pinging in my head for a week. As I have been processing this, four thoughts have emerged:
1. What, exactly, are our deepest desires?
There are many things that I desire in life. I want a library in my house that would make Belle swoon. I want a hot tub that switches between overlooking a desert wadi or the ocean or European cobblestones based on my mood. I want to eat unlimited cake with zero consequences. Yes, these are desires, but I don’t believe this is the kind of thing that God and, in turn, Nouwen is talking about. God knows exactly what we need and chief among those needs is the Divine presence. I believe that part of discipleship is allowing the Lord to make our most voracious hunger be for Him and Him alone. So apart from anything else, we can trust that where He brings us is where we will experience Him most strongly. When we own that desire, we see its fulfillment happening in real time. Ask yourself: what do I really desire? And let Jesus mold that into something for His glory.
2. We can find our desires in unexpected places.
Sometimes, the places where He leads us will clearly fulfill the things we want. I felt led to marry my husband and that was a desire I would talk about to anyone who would listen. But other times, the desires that are fulfilled are under the surface, things that we didn't even know we wanted. I like to joke that I should never say that I don't want to do something because that's exactly where the Lord ends up asking me to go. I didn't want to do youth ministry, but I loved my time in youth ministry. I didn't think I wanted to work in a church, and I now feel a deep love for and desire to serve the church. These were places in which I did not expect to end up, but once I did, I found that they were exactly what I needed. My desires were found where I least expected them.
3. But what if we are brought somewhere terrible?
I have always ended up loving the unexpected places where the Lord has taken me, but what happens if we are brought somewhere truly terrible? What if we don't find ourselves with unexpectedly happy conclusions? In pondering this, I was reminded of Stephen, the first martyr, whose violent death is outlined in the Book of Acts. I'm sure that Stephen would not have chosen to be led where he was ultimately led, but he used that moment to preach the story of God. His dying breaths were lifted with truth and, though Stephen most assuredly passed away, a man in the crowd of persecutors was eventually transformed from Saul to Paul and I have to believe that Stephen's witness stuck with our most well known saint. Though such a calling is not fun, if God's glory is our greatest desire, then even such an end can fulfill us. This is an extreme example, but the point is that, if we desire the Lord most deeply, it doesn’t matter where we go, so long as He goes with us.
4. You can trust Him
God sees every bit of us. He gets it. He sees your heart and He knows your deepest longings, even when you might not be able to articulate them yourself. I affirm the truth of Nouwen’s prayer: where He leads us, there we will be fulfilled. This takes away the pressure to figure it out. All we have to do is trust God to be God, to listen to the Divine voice as it calls to us, and to follow in confidence, knowing full well that it will be exactly where you need to be.
I want to go where I am called and I want to be sure that, wherever that might be, my heart will be home. Lord, help us.
Cross-posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"