A REFLECTION AND A BENEDICTION FOR THE WEEK
(Friday, October 22nd)
My friend Debbie and I were chatting over coffee one morning, finally reconnecting after months of isolation. We both had been feeling uninspired; we sensed a lack of purpose or direction, and we recognized how our recent responsibilities and burdens had contributed to these feelings. At one point, Debbie quietly observed, “Maybe for right now I am called to just fill in the gaps.” Her insightful words really resonated with me, and I knew I was being invited to reflect on her idea this week…
If we are attentive, we can find gaps all around us every day. There are gaps between a lonely person and a caring friend. An empty stomach and a warm meal. An anxious mindset and a caring prayer. An aching heart and a hug of compassion. A wound of misunderstanding and an empathetic ear. A fevered body and a tender caress. A pair of cold hands and a pair of warm mittens. A disheartened soul and a word of encouragement. A parentless child and a loving home. A struggling student and a helpful tutor. These empty spaces are yearning to be filled by someone who cares.
Could filling in the gaps actually become our greatest purpose?
I struggle somewhat with this question. My desire to find and fulfill a significant purpose has only deepened in these years after overcoming cancer. I feel this immense gratitude for life, almost as if I need to be worthy of these bonus days. These inner questions come to mind: “Why am I still here? Am I meant to do something special? How will I make the most of this life, this life that others were not as fortunate to enjoy?” I want my life to matter. I want to be known or remembered as having made a major, good difference. I want my life to be more than gap-filling.
When I used to run 5K and 10K races, I had a recurring dream. In each dream, I would be running eagerly toward the finish line, excited to achieve my fastest time. Suddenly people would walk right in front of me and begin chatting, oblivious to my pursuit. Then, my route would be diverted into a building with lots of hallways and stairwells so I could not find my way out. I would awaken feeling very frustrated, annoyed with the interruptions and detours that had prevented me from reaching my goal!
Our dreams and goals are beneficial and worthwhile. But are there times we become so intent on pursuing our greater purpose, that the person in front of us becomes a hindrance instead of an unexpected new friend? Does a detour become an obstacle, rather than an exciting new place to discover? How often do we see our gap-filling as a hurdle to overcome, instead of a generous outflow of lovingkindness?
Jesus stopped to help people all along his journey. Their needs were his ultimate purpose. Today I feel led to be more humbly open to God’s movement, to watch for any gaps I might fill even as I continue to dream and pursue other goals.
The needs of our world are many and huge; we do have work to do. But there is still so much goodness in the world. I am thankful for Debbie and all gap-fillers who step up to fill the empty spaces of pain, sadness, or despair. Maybe the gaps are where the real work is done, where the biggest differences are made. We can be part of that goodness – filling one gap at a time.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia
May you take your day’s agenda
and present it to the One
who knows exactly what is needed
before the day is done.
May you pursue your dreams and goals –
the ones you hold most dear –
while keeping eyes wide open
for the fear, the frown, the tear.
May you fill each gap with tender love,
reduce each gap with care,
or close each gap with friendship
and the kindness that you share.
May you trust that your great legacy
is one that God provides,
as you fill the gaps along your path,
with God to help and guide.
May you surrender your frustrations
as you remember at day’s end
the words Christ says about your acts:
“Well done, my faithful friend.”
BIBLE PASSAGES TO BLESS YOUR WEEK:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:3-5, 13 (NRSV)
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:34-39 (NRSV)
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
John 13:2b-5, 12-17 (NRSV)
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16 (NRSV)
Bible verses found at https://www.biblegateway.com/
(Photo by Karen)