Spoiler alert: you might be really disappointed in the state of my soul if you keep reading.
Last week I was at the Dexter Wellness Center swimming happily in one of the 4 lap lanes, all of them occupied with a swimmer, when a fifth woman walked out of the locker room onto the deck. I noticed she walked briskly and purposefully to the small therapy pool and so would not require one of us 4 lane swimmers to share a lane with her. Whew. Thank goodness. I don’t like to share my lane because I stink as a swimmer and it just makes even more water go up my nose.
Then another woman walked onto the deck. She scanned the lap pool as if to assess if there was an empty lane in which to swim. Know what I did? Pretended not to see her. Kept my pace and figured if she approached me and asked to share, fine. Otherwise, I was going to just mind my own business… (did I mention how embarrassing it is to make blog confessions??)
About 5 minutes later I had finished my breaststroke lap and it brought the bridge of my nose to the end of my lane closest to the therapy pool where the woman I had ignored was sitting looking bored and idle. Just sitting. Not swimming or therapy-ing. She looked like a little girl sitting on the swing set all by herself when the other 5th graders tell her she can’t join their secret code club.
Suddenly I was pulled out of my privilege of comfort and into the long-suffering love of God we hear about in Micah 6:8 this week**: What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. I was ready to ask her if she’d like to share a lane, but then I realized there was already a new lane open. Clearly, she just had something on her mind, and so, maybe like me when I’ve just heard a meaningful story on NPR, she was lost in thought, not waiting for a lane after all. Not the first time I’ve projected my elementary school angst onto another. But then this is what happened next: another woman walked out of the locker room and my heart literally lept up inside me.
Oh, please let me share my lane with her! I wished fervently. (Where did this complete 180 come from?!) I hope she comes over to the lap pool so that I can open my heart and make myself known to another, and so be taken up into the vulnerable and open heart of God once again.
I suddenly longed for the delicious taste of wholeness (or salvation, as the concept is termed biblically)—which is what we find when Love inspires us to empty ourselves of our own little agendas and step onto the wider plain of God’s Way of Being in interdependent relationship with everything and everyone. This is what Paul was saying when he wrote in 1 Corinthians that the foolishness of the cross is greater than any human wisdom… the cross is where Jesus revealed God’s so-called “weakness” (better read as “willing vulnerability”) as being the Way to find wholeness as human beings.
Jesus is captured as saying in Matthew 5: 8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This “willing vulnerability” we see in letting go of our own expectations and ideas of “fairness” is an example of what I think he was talking about. We inevitably get caught up in the throes of delight and joy when we greet God’s invitation to open ourselves to another’s genuine need and vulnerability with our own vulnerability—and serendipitously discover that our own deepest need to belong to God is being met, too. Sometimes those moments define a person forever—
think Doctors Without Borders…
think people who donate one of their kidneys to an absolute stranger who is waiting for a miracle…
think Mohammad Salman Hamdani, the Muslim police cadet and certified emergency medical tech who was held in suspicion when he turned up missing after 9/11. Later investigators learned that on his way to work, when he had seen the towers burning, he had changed directions to go and help get people out of the wreckage. A villain he was not: he died a hero saving others.
Sometimes those moments of opening one’s own vulnerability to another define a person’s legacy for eternity—and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they just give your soul a healthy workout at the pool.
**Each week of writing for this blog is based upon the 4 scriptures listed in what’s called the Revised Common Lectionary, and is used by many Protestant Christian traditions. We are currently in Year A of a 3-year cycle, rotating through an enormous number of biblical text for preachers and musicians to use in leading worship each week. For fun, you can check them out each week at http://www.textweek.com.