nobody again

Heather and I are leading worship the day after tomorrow, the first Sunday of Lent. Heather chose the theme of "waiting for God," and she and another woman designed banners with images of winter waiting. It's a good thing for me to be meditating on right now.

I'm realizing that I came to the farm (perhaps unknowingly) with ideas that things would be different for us now. That now that we had arrived at the place God prepared and opened for us, it would be easier, things would smoothly fall into place. Not likely, I know. But I have been sincerely surprised and confused by the response of a number of people (outside the folks here) that we have turned to for help. We've been mostly ignored. Can't even get a response to requests or phone calls. I makes you feel rather small to not even rate a "no, thank you."

But the experience reminded me of "nobodies." I wrote about it on the road this past summer, and focused on it in a letter we sent back to the church here. It begins:

It was dark when we approached the church, hoping to find shelter there for the night. Rain was coming. We surveyed the church grounds, not finding much, but it was rather late to be looking elsewhere. Then we saw a light in an upstairs window of one of the buildings. We thought we should at least ask permission before laying down, so we rang the bell and waited, a bit nervously. After a few moments we heard movement inside. Then the blinds on the window of the door parted and two eyes peered at us.

"Whaddya want?"

Heather and I looked at each other, then back at the eyes, and didn't know what to do. Did he really expect us to explain our situation shouting through a closed door? Then his fingers appeared, shooing us away. Heather thought she heard him say "We don't have any" as he turned away.

We found another church in time to hide from the fierce storm that blew in that night. But the next morning I thought again about those fingers, shooing us into the dark. That's the experience of nobodies. I remembered reading John Dominic Crossan's commentary on the Beatitudes in a library a few days earlier, and his description of Jesus' followers as "a kingdom of nobodies." Outsiders. Those who are considered of little or no value to society, and so are pushed to the margins. Or simply ignored. Yet among these Jesus found the ones he called "blessed"...

Perhaps our experiences on the walk prepared us more than I expected. In a way, it's comforting to think that. And I also find myself feeling better to discover that we are still nobodies—it seems right, the place where we will find Jesus with us.

I should also perhaps confess that I have being focusing too much on where retreatants will come from (and where support will come from), and that my eagerness to make these arrangements has been motivated by fear more than love. Fear of failure, fear of letting people down. I think I'm being called to focus more on our calling, sharing what's inspired us—Jesus' kingdom of nobodies, for example. And let God take care of bringing the right people to us.