During the holidays, we talked with our grandson about job-hunting. I remember seeking my first position as an ordained minister. Usually, the National United Church’s “settlement committee” carefully chose a position for us. I came to the “settlement committee” with special needs. In an attempt to save my dying marriage, I asked to be left close to my husband’s work. The committee tried. There was a place, but that particular congregation definitely didn’t want a woman. They weren’t supposed to be able to choose, but the committee in its wisdom wanted this position to work. “Would you be willing to be interviewed by them?” the committee asked me. “If they meet with you, speak with you, they’ll realize what a tremendous gift you will be for them. They’ll have a chance to experience your heart.
Today, job applications are submitted on line. There is no human contact between applicant and recruiter. How can an employer experience your commitment, your enthusiasm, your heart through a computer screen?
It isn’t only in job interviews that we can miss the best candidate by focusing on outward appearances or factual data. We meet someone new and often make a snap judgment. Maybe it’s just the way a person dresses, smells, or speaks. Maybe we’ve already too many friends, or we’re just too preoccupied with our own agenda to consider this new person. Looking in the heart requires time and commitment.
When God sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse in search of a new king for Israel among Jessie’s sons, “the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) God chose Jessie’s youngest son, merely a shepherd boy named David. David, became the greatest of Israel’s kings.
Let’s not overlook all the diamonds, all the goodness, in the people we meet. Take the time to look past that first impression. Search for God’s presence in their hearts.
Last week, I wrote about the value of lining our year with prayer because we need God’s help. Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always even unto the end of the age,” assure us that God’s presence, strength, and comfort is always with us.
This week, I offer you Psalm 139, in which the writer also speaks about God’sinescapable presence, this time from a different perspective. Years ago, George Orwell, in his novel, “1984,” talked about the never-ending presence of “Big Brother.” In essence, the Psalmist tells us that God is that “big brother,” or “big sister” but in a very different way.
Often strangers gasp when they first discover that I am an ordained minister. Guilt flashes across their faces as they scramble to consider what they may have said or done in the half hour since they were introduced to me. That gasp tells me that they will be nervous around me for a long time. Being with “Rev. Janet” reminds them God is present with us always.
God is a guest at every meal whether or not we give thanks. God matches us stride for stride as we play hockey, ski, or run. God listens to every conversation, every thought. God is with us when we lose patience with our partner, our friend, our sibling. God knows when we claim we’re sixty-five when we’re only sixty-three in order to receive a discount. The psalmist asks, “Where can I flee from God’s presence?” and answers. “If I ascend to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there… “ (Psalm 139:8) That is when we need to gasp. Let’s live every day of 2014 fully aware of God’s presence. God offers not just help, guidance, strength, but also love and forgiveness, as well. We cannot hide anything from God. Let’s endeavor to have nothing in our lives that we would like or need to hide.
Beginning with my fall last January, stress dogged our footsteps through 2013. Over the last twelve months I have yelled at God, pleaded with God, even doubted God’s existence. For sure, I lost patience with God’s time schedule. Healing my back is taking away too long. The closing date on our house sale loomed and still we had found nothing affordable to buy. We were one week from moving in with friends (couch surfing in today’s terms) before we had both a house sitting job and a house to buy with a long closing date. For me that was much too close to comfort.
We have begun a New Year. We’ve settled into our housesitting job. At first, I felt displaced, like a refugee, but after spending Christmas here, this beautiful place has become our home. Living beside the river brings a special gift. I never tire of watching its different moods. My back is healing. I’m almost back to “my normal life”. We’ve bought a wonderful house, and come April, we’ll move to it.
The silver lining to 2013 is that my relationship with God has deepened. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, this week I listed the areas of my life in which I need God’s help. First and foremost are the boxes of books that line the walk-in closet upstairs. “Fireweed” has sold tremendously well, but there are lots left. I need God’s help in planning speaking engagements, workshops, selling on the internet. That’s only one aspect of my busy life. I even need God’s help in resting.
What do you need from God for 2014? Think about your goals. Ask God for strength and leadership. We don’t have to be in trouble or sick or broken to take time for God. Line your year with prayer rather than resolutions. Remind yourself every day of Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20)
“In life, in death, in life beyond death, we are not alone, thanks be to God.” (United Church, New Creed)