New Truth in Over Quoted Scripture

We’ve all been there. Sitting at that wedding, marveling at how pretty everything is, how wonderful this day is. Suddenly a close family friend gets up to read some scripture, and we hear “Love is patient, love is kind…”

Now don’t get me wrong. These words are beautiful. The truth they express humbles me. But they have also become a bit of a cliche at weddings, and their meaning can get eclipsed by the frequency with which they are invoked.

I was driving home tonight and caught a little segment in which Francesca Battistelli spoke about this verse. I thought, oh great, some more “Love is” to listen to. But what she had to say made me stop and think, and then made me realize afresh just how blessed I am.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

What happens to this scripture if we use it to assess our relationships, be they potential, or current, or with ourselves? What if I were to use this scripture to pray thanks over my husband, and instead say:

4  Ben is patient, Ben is kind. Ben does not envy, Ben does not boast, Ben is not proud. 5  Ben does not dishonor others, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, Ben keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Ben does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7  Ben always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

What if I were to teach my daughter to look at any crush and put his name in the place of love, what standards might she hold him to, what standards might she expect of herself?

Or if I were to add my name to this.

4  Sarah is patient, Sarah is kind. Sarah does not envy, Sarah does not boast, Sarah is not proud. 5  Sarah does not dishonor others, she is not self-seeking, she is not easily angered, Sarah keeps no record of wrongs. 6  Sarah does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7  Sarah always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

What standards might I hold myself to? What might I expect of myself in not just my home life, or at church, but when I’m at work or in the line at the grocery store? Can I truly say all of these things about myself?

And since I hold no stock in guilt or shame, I will not use these words to condemn myself for the day’s actions. Nor will I use them to pick holes at my character. I will hold them high and walk with pride, as I pursue these words, as I wrestle with these words, as I see my faith lived out in my actions. I will not use these words to shackle myself in guilt, but to liberate myself into living a fuller life.

That’s what love is after all.

A Mother’s Day Prayer

People ask “When was the last time you prayed?” I am beginning to feel more and more that this is a redundant question. Rather ask, “When was the last time you breathed?” “When was the last time you moved your hand?”

Prayer should be the work of your life, not five minutes of words in your day, not twenty minutes of words in your day.

These are the thoughts I have been having around prayer of late. And so my mother’s day prayer was this:

Sleeping in late, resting my body and soul, while little hands busily put together last minute pictures and crafts. Making chocolate chip waffles for hungry bellies, not having breakfast in bed, listening to the sounds of bedlam from the living room as I stir creamy batter. Walking around Lowe’s with a belly heavy with my third child, looking for a comfortable chair, while my boys play hide and seek in the shopping cart. Hearing little voices from the next aisle over, trying to sneak up on me. Resting on that new chair in the warmth of the sun, on the green grass of my lawn, book in hand, children running through sprinklers, making mud pies, and running up for me to wipe noses and sneak a sip of my iced water. Bedtime snuggles and old stories, singing songs to their little sister in my belly. Sleeping heads on comfortable pillows. Late night thunderstorms and skies as bright as day.

When did I last pray? My whole life is a prayer, of grace, of thankfulness, of desires, of dreams, of the momentary, of the eternal.

Finding Grace in Personal Memoirs

Found

Perhaps this is what drew me to read blogs in the first place, being able to sneak a look into some other life than my own. To see how other people sew this, or knit that. To see how other people raise their children, juggle their jobs.

Lately I have been reading a lot of personal memoirs, testimonies, biographies, call them what you will. Modern tellings, modern women. Mostly from my age and time of life, mothers with young children struggling to make sense of their faith this side of motherhood.

Just today I finished reading Found by Micha Boyett. Reading Micha’s words are like taking a deep breathe of fresh air and slowly exhaling. Like standing on a high place and watching the sunset. There is great moment in her simple words, great moment in her simple life, and it is here in her simplicity, her search for prayer, that I find out a little more about this thing we call Grace.

Called to a life working with orphans in Africa, called to international missions, Micha found herself not living out some high calling in a foreign land but studying poetry and falling in love in Syracuse. She did not seek out the motherless of Africa, but instead built a small home, and started having small babies. Once the babies came along, her full time ministry became mothering and not the college students she had once mentored. Once she and her family moved across country to an unknown San Francisco, she felt like more and more of her identity was being chipped away. She struggled to grasp hold of the faith and prayer of her pre-mothering days, only to find out, gradually that faith and prayer are both more than she ever imagined, and unlike anything she ever imagined.

Her story is familiar to me. I found myself 3000 miles from home in 2003, building a home in America with a new husband. Not 3000 miles from home working with orphans in Bulgaria. Post motherhood, I struggled to find my faith, to find time for my faith, to find words, amidst the whirling chaos that having little boys in the house brought. And like Micha I found grace in realizing that my small story, is part of a grand narrative. That nothing God does is small.

Her story resonated with me. “There’s never a moment when you learn how to be whole, just like there’s never a moment when you learn how to be a mom, or how to see the holy around you. There’s only practice. There’s only noticing. There’s only the constant prayer that your heart would become what God is making you to be.”

Her story affirmed my time of life, and God’s work in it. “I need to know how to love God when all I have to offer is my daily chaos. Mostly, I long to know a quietness in my soul, true contentment, despite my spiritual unimpressiveness.”

Micha’s words gave me the gift of a glimpse into the life and prayers of the Benedictine monks, a way to connect with the Psalms on a daily basis.  Her words gave me another clue to understanding, and relating to, and breathing in, this God-man Jesus, who “will never transform us until we see him as something beautiful and not merely useful.” Beauty over function.

To live your life as a breathing prayer, as an offering when all words fall short. That simply giving my son a bath, brushing the hair from my husband’s face, sitting over coffee with a friend, can all be my life’s prayer to God. These are all things I’ve been feeling for some time now, and to know I am not alone is a blessing beyond words.

Beauty over function.

Life over words.

His story over my story.