Both Sowing and Weeping

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By Micha Boyett | Twitter @michaboyett

A_Micha2It’s Ash Wednesday and I stand in the back of the evening service with my husband and my oldest son. August likes to stand on the chair between us and hook each arm around our necks, pulling our heads down and in toward his own. Of course he does.

When I was a kid I stood between my parents. That’s how I worshipped, my feet on the cushioned golden plush of my childhood church pew, my eyes focused on the red-orange and gold-specked carpet of my family’s Baptist church. Then I’d move my gaze to the hymnal my dad held in his hands, stare hard at the letters and notes. I was still learning to read then. But I already knew the words and the melodies. I knew my father’s bass and my mother’s alto.

I wrapped my arm around my dad’s middle and leaned my head against his chest. We sang all the old hymns those Sunday evenings, the sunset’s warm glow through the northwest-facing stained glass. “Just As I Am without one plea,” we sang. “All to Jesus, I surrender,” we sang. I swayed. That’s how I worshipped, standing on the pew, holding and swaying.

I stand beside my son at the Ash Wednesday service and remember that feeling from my childhood. The night’s already come here. No sunset, no stained glass, no pews in our San Francisco church. Here we rent space from the Russian Center. The chairs come out. The chairs go back to storage each week. I glance down at my son, thinking how rare it is to be beside him at church on a school night.

We sing a hymn from Psalm 126. “Restore us O Lord!” we sing. “Restore us O Lord!” I close my eyes and find the alto line. No hymnal to hold, so I open my left hand, move my right around my boy’s skinny waist.

Although we are weeping
Lord help us keep sowing
the seeds of your kingdom…
All those who sow weeping
will go out with songs of joy

I love this hymn. My husband jokes that I love anything as long as it’s sad and beautiful at the same time. I think he’s right. I’m a poet: Sadness and Beauty are poetic currency. And this hymn moves from “weeping” in one line to “songs of joy” in the next. In other words, it’s rich.

But I like this hymn for more than its sadness or beauty. I love that it holds in the same hand both the pain of this world and the call of God to pursue justice. I love that it acknowledges how we are always invited into both: our own healing and the work of bringing hope to the deep needs of the world.

Sometimes we are afraid that if we focus too much on our own healing, our faith will become mere navel gazing. After all, if faith in Christ is simply a bunch of people obsessed with their own spiritual lives, then we’ve missed the call of Jesus, right? We missed God’s heart for justice and mercy.

I get that. There’s so much work to do. What are we doing thinking about our own junk? Get over it and move on! Of course, the problem with Christians ignoring our own brokenness and moving on to serve the world is that we end up breaking the world in the process. The Church continues to be bruised and beaten by sex scandals, broken and lifeless marriages, and families with deep, unsaid secrets.

We are the people of Christ. We are both the broken and the healers. We are both the singers and the bearers of the song. We hold both our small, personal stories and the great story of God in the same hand. And the beauty of the life of faith is that the task before us is always both: our personal wholeness and the wholeness of the world.

We, mere humans on this finite planet, may never find ourselves fully healed, fully whole. But we are still called to wholeheartedness, to a life of constant returning to the Healer. We are not just working to live with mercy and justice; we are also working to become people capable of love.

Both sowing and weeping. This is complicated, friends. And it’s beautiful. I used to fear that if I leaned in to the pain in me, I’d only weep. I’d never sow again. I wrote my book, Found, about my own longing to discover the life of wholeheartedness and my fear that in my search for God’s inner healing I would miss the chance to serve and care for the weakest around me.

But the good true thing? Though God’s work of healing may start within our own story, our story is always a stream moving toward the river. The work of God within always pours out of us into the world’s pain. They are one and the same, the inner and the outer work.

Only the work of wholeheartedness allows us to love, to give, to respond the need before us, to pray for the weakest in our lives. Only the reality of finding God’s love in the hard work of living prayer opens us up to bring Love to a beautiful, desperate world.

Both the weeping and the sowing. One hand around my son. One hand open to the sky.

God is here. We are being found. We are being sent out. Always at the same time. Always.

_________________

About Micha:

mbheadshotMicha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet. A former youth minister, she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith. Her first book Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer is available now on Amazon and will be in stores April 1. Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys.

Find Micha on Twitter, Facebook, and at michaboyett.com

 

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