Theme Devotions 2012-13
The Campus Ministries theme this year is “Spirited Life: Encounter, Discern, Respond.” Living a Spirited Life is about encountering the Divine in us, discerning who we are in relation to the Divine and responding with a life lived fully, passionately, generously, day by day.
Therefore, a Spirited Life is one lived from the place of God’s presence, God’s Spirit in us, enlivening us, inspiring us, enabling us to live into our full potential. A Spirited Life is a life out of which “Passionate Learning” flows freely.
The encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus recorded in the 3rd chapter of John’s gospel provides a biblical touchstone for reflection through the 2012-2013 academic year. This text is rich with imagery of theological discourse, encounter with Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, eternal/abundant life and God’s love for the world.
Our hope is that we will all be in-spired (as in filled with the breath/wind/Spirit) to nurture an awareness of God’s ever-present Spirit in us and to embrace the daily opportunities afforded us to live our lives intentionally from that place of Spirit – that place of passion – in us.
Related Scripture Passages:
- Revelation 21:3 – A New Reality in Our Midst
- Psalm 4:1-8 – Letting Go…
- Ephesians 3:16-19 – Life’s Divine Poetry
- I Kings 19:11-13; Proverbs 3:5-6 – Encountering and Discerning God’s Word in Prayer
- Ezekiel 37:5b – Making Space for God to Work
- Romans 12: 6-16 – Encounter, Discern, Respond
- John 3:5 – Breathe
- Ezekiel 37:1-6 – Can These Bones Live?
- Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 3:16-17 – Dwell in Me
- Isaiah 42:1-9 – Bringing Forth Justice
- 2 Corinthians 4:8-18 – Don’t Let Your Setbacks Set You Back
- Job 9:11; John 3:8 – Ruach
Ways to Engage the Theme and Related Passages
Personal Devotions: read over the same passage each day per week
Group Bible Study: (select one passage per meeting time, read over it together, and ask the following questions)
- what jumped out to me?
- what questions arose?
- how does this apply to my life as a college student or employee?
Clubs, Floors, Small Group Housing Units, and Department meetings: open with devotions by reading over one of the passages, along with a simple prayer
Spiritual Friendship: as you meet with a spiritual friend, read one of the passages together each time you meet
General Reflections: (ask yourself or with a group of people)
- when have I or have I not experienced moments of stillness?
- moments with/with out God?
- what might I do to help create such times?
Goshen College Prayer Booklet: engage this prayer resource containing over a dozen different ways to connect with God individually, with a friend, or with a group (pick up a print copy by AD 12)
Lectio Divina (“Sacred Reading”): individually or with a group, utilize this prayer practice (see Goshen College Prayer Booklet) for each of the scripture passages
Revelation 21:3 – A New Reality in Our Midst
by Quinn Brenneke, junior Business & Public Relations major, Global Economics minor
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” – Revelation 21:3 (ESV)
A lack of sleep or perhaps some old leftovers might be all it takes to instigate a dream that seems vivid enough to be reality. John the Revealer’s daydream, however, was probably not the product of cold pizza for breakfast. In the beginning of his book, he says that he was “in the Spirit” (1:10) when he saw the signs and wonders that are recorded in the final book of the Biblical cannon. Living a spirited life, John prophesied to seven ancient churches God’s plan for a new order of creation. He saw “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1) that bore the beauty of a “bride adorned for her husband,” a dwelling place for God to be with His people. Likewise, Jesus Christ also announced a new reality. In the words of Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed a world free from captivity and oppression, good news for the poor and the blind (Luke 4:18) and promised to send his Spirit to live among humanity (John 16:7-14).
This new reality, the Kingdom of God, is in our midst. Just as John was “in the Spirit,” we can also participate in a similar spirited life, living in the Kingdom. When we let our worries and frustrations control our hearts, we force God out of His dwelling place. Creating space for God to dwell in our lives, away from the distractions of our world, might be one way to begin living “in the Spirit.”
God, open my eyes to see Your Kingdom, and create in me a heart that is open to Your Spirit. Help me let go of the things that force You out of Your dwelling place with me.
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Psalm 4:1-8 – Letting Go…
by Liz Core, senior Communication & Peace, Justice & Conflict Studies major
1Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. 2How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah – Psalm 4:1-2
I believe God often confuses us with blessings and answers to prayers. We pray for safety, and brought into a dangerous situation. We pray for food, but called to give all we have for others. We pray for rest, yet called to walk a mile with our enemy. Yet, when we call, the door will always be opened.
This summer during my Ministry Inquiry position, I joined a group of individuals from my church who walked in this knowledge. Literally. The group—consisting of an experienced pilgrim, his wife, and their baby boy, a wandering artist, a musician, and three college students—decided to walk around the entire county with only the sandals on their feet (and some diapers and food for the baby) in order to rely on God’s provision.
On a long, tiring day we were low on food and weary from the sun. We saw a church. Over the course of the pilgrimage, churches had been our refuge in times of hunger and weariness. Yet as we approached the door and encountered the preacher, we were told that there was no food for us to eat. By this time, the baby and his mama were growing needy with thirst and hunger. As the preacher left the parking lot, they entered the church. In the freezer they found a bag of broccoli and a tub of ice cream. “Ice cream!” Mama called out to the weary travelers. As we prepared to dig into the tub of ice cream, mama stopped us with her hesitant, “Hm. Maybe we shouldn’t.” We were to experience God’s provision and this food was not given to us. So we left. As we continued, we were approached by a truck driven by a kind old farmer who invited us over for dinner. A three course meal including both broccoli and ice cream. As we let go, God came through.
Prayer: God, guide my way. I don’t know whether to go to the right or the left. But I will trust in you. You make me complete. I am a sinner, I am in darkness. I am a liar. I am a hypocrite. Sometimes I hate myself and other times I seem to love myself way too much. But, Today I proclaim that Nothing is impossible for You. Today, I will search my heart and be silent, Today, I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone make me dwell in safety.
“He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to
pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and
breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after
the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12and after the
earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer
silence. 13When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and
stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are
you doing here, Elijah?” –1 Kings 19:11‐13
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your
ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” –Proverbs 3:5‐6
With the busy schedules that so many of us have today, it is often difficult to find time to
come to God in prayer. As a college student busy with homework, relationships, music,
sports and many other activities, I often find myself cramming my “God time” into the
five minutes that I can stay awake when I lay down to go to bed. And in this time my
prayers usually consist of simple lists of things that I am thankful for and concerns that I
have before dozing off to sleep.
But this is not what prayer is and this is not a way to encounter God’s presence. Prayer is
a conversation with God that must be more than going through the motions: it requires
just as much listening as it does talking, and this requires coming to God in silence with
an open heart and quiet mind to hear God’s word. Consider Elijah in 1 Kings 19: he does
not encounter God in the wind, earthquake, or fire; instead, he encounters God through a
whisper in the silence. Elijah brings his concerns to God with the faith and trust that God
will help him discern how to act in his current situation. We too must have this trust and
mindset when we come to prayer with God. But this will require a different type of
prayer. This requires a type of prayer in which we set aside time from our busy schedules
to clear our minds of the everyday thoughts that clutter it, abandon our own insights,
share our concerns and joys with God, and inquire God’s will in our lives through silent
listening. So next time you come to God in prayer, pray in this way: “Ever-present God,
you have heard my joys and concerns. Enlighten me with your word and make straight
my paths before me. I trust you, and I desire to live my life according to your will.” You
may be surprised at what you will hear.
Ezekiel 37:5b – Making Space for God to Work
by Emily Grimes, junior Music Education major
5“I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.”- Ezekiel 37:5 (NIV)
This past summer I went to Peru for Goshen College’s SST program. Before I went, I was uncertain and scared of how I would survive being separated from my loved ones for so long. I was also anxious about the unknowns and how they would affect me. Looking back, going on SST this summer was probably the best thing I could have possibly done for myself. During my time in Peru I slowly learned how to loosen my grip on my need to control my life, and slowly trust more and more in God. Even though SST was extremely difficult at times, I had an overwhelming sense of peace through it all. God was breathing new life into me in slow but steady ways. It wasn’t until after I got home that I realized how much I had changed for the better.
I like to think of the Holy Spirit as God’s breath that moves around and through us. God is the only one who can bring life to the dust of our inmost being. However, allowing God to fill us isn’t easy; we have to first make space in our lives for God to work. For me, that meant going on SST, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and learning to give God access to parts of me that I’d rather control myself. Although it wasn’t easy, doing so has left me feeling refreshed and revived in a million different ways. Do you ever feel like something in you has dried up? Perhaps it’s patience, hope, joy, or a dwindled awareness of God’s presence. Ask God to breathe new life into an area of your life that may be lacking.
Prayer: I recommend praying through song. O breathe on me, O breath of God, fill me with life anew, that I may love the things you love, and do what you would do. (STJ 46)
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit
upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.2He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it
heard in the street; 3a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not
quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has
established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the
earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who
walk in it: 6I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and
kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations7 to open the eyes
that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in
darkness. 8I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
9See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring
forth, I tell you of them. –Isaiah 42:1-9
This passage explores the concept of individuals working for God’s justice. The passage says
that God has called you in righteousness, has taken you by the hand and kept you, and declares
new things. Part of hearing what God is saying is opening your life to God. At times, life can be
so busy that we shield ourselves from new endeavors, but by doing this we close ourselves to
God’s calling. If we open ourselves up to hear God’s calling by being open during the most
monotonous times, we can feel God’s push and pull in our lives. After realizing that God has an
initiative, we can begin to discern what that initiative may be. This passage illustrates that the
one who responds to God’s call will work for justice, but the possibilities when God is leading
are limitless. The last part of the passage speaks of seeing the former things and learning the new
things. God is always creating, and according to this passage God will guide you and inform you
to what God’s new creation. It may still be a mystery to you, but God will eventually illuminate
you with discernment. You will then have the chance to respond. Everyone has the chance to
experience God’s call, but what makes individuals extraordinary is how they respond to that call.
You may not think that you have the capability to achieve what you feel God is calling you to do,
but like the passage says, even those who cannot quench a dimly burning wick God will use to
bring forth justice.
2 Corinthians 4:8-18 – Don’t Let Your Setbacks Set You Back
by Ashika Thanju, sophomore Nursing major, Worship Assistant
8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you… 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-18 (NIV)
Every morning I woke up worrying about what to eat, then what to wear, then how to pass the ever so brutal chemistry class, and then, again, how to wake up the next day early enough to be on time for my 8 am class. My whole life, I had spent worrying so that every little thing went right. There were times when I felt sick to my stomach because everyone around me looked happy with their lives while I struggled to keep things straight, but then one morning upon reading this passage, I got a wakeup call. The part the caught my attention the most was the last sentence: “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Yes, it shook me from the ground and slapped me right in the face, while God said to me, “Ashika, trust me.” It’s true; I had been in panic mode ever since the day I was born. All God was asking me to do was to trust Him. From that day onwards, I tried surrendering to God, and living a life filled with good spirit and enthusiasm. Even in times when I was deep in trouble and there seemed to be no way out, I thought of God’s promise for me. He would never leave me nor forsake me. How did I forget that my God is omniscient? Nothing is hidden from Him, not even my future because to Him, time is meaningless. So why worry? Everything I think or do is His plan. So my pain today is temporary, as He said in Jeremiah 29:11 ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’ But my trust is what I have to give in return.
Lord, you are the sole keeper of my future. I am grateful because your blessings for me are eternal. Give me strength to trust you in everything I do. Amen.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” – Galatians 5:22-23
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength
through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots
will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” – Ephesians 3:16-17
Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be,
and, with words that help and heal, would thy life in mine reveal,
and, with actions bold and meek, would for Christ my Savior speak.
Truthful Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would truthful be,
and, with wisdom kind and clear, let thy life in mine appear,
and, with actions lovingly speak my Lord’s sincerity.
Silent Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would silent be,
quiet as the growing blade, which through earth its way has made,
silently, like morning light, putting mists and chills to flight.
Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be,
mighty so as to prevail where unaided I must fail,
ever, by a mighty hope, pressing on and bearing up.
Holy Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would holy be,
break from sin and choose the good, cherish what my Savior would,
and whatever I can be, give to him who gave me thee.
- Hymnal: A Worship Book #507, text by Thomas T. Lynch
Before I sang this hymn in church several months ago, I wasn’t at all familiar with it. And I’ll be
honest, I don’t really remember anything else about the service that Sunday, but something about
the words to this hymn really struck me, so I went back to my dorm room and read them again.
The thought that I would be gracious, truthful, silent, mighty, and holy if the Spirit was dwelling
in me because the Spirit is gracious, truthful, silent, mighty, and holy made sense. It’s like how
Harry Potter can speak Parseltongue because He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named can and Harry is
one of his horcruxes. Voldemort is in Harry, therefore characteristics of Voldemort are in Harry;
the Spirit is in me, therefore characteristics of the Spirit are in me. I guess that’s what it means
in Galatians 5 when it says “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy,
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (verses 22-23).
And as Paul says in Ephesians 3:16-17, “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he
will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your
hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Let
the Gracious, Truthful, Silent, Mighty, Holy Spirit empower you to be gracious, truthful, silent,
mighty, holy, and rooted in God’s love.
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Jesus, John 3:5
If Spirit is read as breath as the Greek, Numa, allows, we are born of breath and water. Makes sense, the
two elements we absolutely cannot live without. For the sake of space I will focus on breath.
Take a moment to feel your breath, the rise and fall of your belly, the expansion of your ribs. Feel the
energy of oxygen refreshing cells, rushing into arms, legs, fingers and toes.
Aware of each breath we become aware of how, in each moment, the life in us is born again. Born as in
renewed—filled with new life—but born also as in carried. With each breath we are carried by the Spirit,
carried by the moment, in the arms of our mother Wisdom, Sophia.
Life is made new in the Spirit. Just like an infant, each moment is a world met by our awareness for the
first time. We are drawn by this mindfulness to listen to the sounds oft’ unheard travelling to our ears but
unnoticed, tuned out. With the wisdom brought by our breath we hear anew the depth and richness of a
Awareness, spiritedness draws us back to our bodies, these good vessels, lungs and chest and veins
housing the Spirit. Spirit, Numa, welcomes us home to our body, to the earth, to feel our toes on warm
cement or squishing in spring mud, sloshing through January snow or crackling in Autumn’s offerings.
So, through our breath, the Spirit, we enter the Kingdom of God, the earth made new by our new presence
in it: our new sight, new listening, new being.
Born of the Spirit, we are invited to be carried and to carry this Life and breath with gusto, blown by the
gusts of the Spirit to encounter these seconds, to listen to and hear the sounds of calling in them, to
respond with full-lunged commitment, saying “Yes!” to this moment, “Yes!” to Life, “Yes!” to the Spirit
breathing in us.
…. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, God may grant that you may be
strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may
dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray
that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and
length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God… -Ephesians 3:16-19
In spite of brief, transient whisperings of a rather “pedestrian” appreciation for
poetry, I did not really begin to enjoy poetry—to live poetry—until I entered my second
semester at Goshen College. Of course, children and adolescents are generally somewhat
disdainful of this, admittedly, bewildering art, and I was always a part of this blind—
albeit, justified—majority. However, the combination of my own emerging adulthood as
well as the acknowledgment that poetry often expresses my own heart’s stirrings with a
rather uncanny exactitude finally convinced me of the rare beauty of this timeless,
illimitable art. And in the months since that discovery last January, I have begun to read
and memorize poetry as a part of my daily devotional. Of course, I do not do so out of a
sense of obligation, (who, after all, ever feels obligated to read poetry?), but rather, I do
so out of the sheer joy of learning, recognizing, and delighting in the gift of this divine
expression of life’s ups, life’s downs, and life’s inevitable gray matter. Indeed, at this
moment in my spiritual journey, the reading and memorization of poetry has become an
essential element of prayer. After all, God has provided outlets for the passionate pursuit
of learning in a million different forms and ways, and for me, the prayerful reading and
memorization of poetry has become just one way to recognize the “breadth and length
and height and depth of God’s love, and to know this love, which surpasses all
knowledge and understanding” (Ephesians 3:18-19). For me, then, the discovery of
poetry is pure gift! It is one more way to know God’s love. And ultimately, it is what I…
we… as Jesus-followers, are called to do: pursue passionately—humbly—the unfailing
love of our Lord in the many different ways that bring us, and Him, unmatchable joy.
Oh Lord, thank you for the opportunity to express, in countless different ways,
my love for You, and to discover, in a million ways more, your unending love for me.
by Mary Oliver from her book Blue Iris
Violets have many leaves, each one so earnestly
heart-shaped that you could not imagine the plants have
thought of anything else to do. But they have: they make
blossoms, which rise yellow or violet, in multitudes, the
violet ones with violet-colored spurs. They like
dampness, they like hillsides and are comfortable also
in the shady woods. They like to be alone, or congregated
together in the grass, looking up as you pass by, saying
Hello, Hello. And what else do you imagine
they might do? Sing? I don’t think so, I suspect
they know when any further ambition would be
unseemly. So all their time is used up in happiness–
in becoming the best they can be
for the greater glory of _________.
In fact, they know it’s okay to rest for the rest of
your life just saying: Thank you. Oh cast of thousands,
as are the stars of heaven, Thank you.
When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.
The wind blows wherever it pleases.
You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
Ruach is the Hebrew word for breath, wind, and spirit– each an essence which holds
great mystery, power, and passing. They are not constant substances, but rather, things
which one cannot perceive, but animate what is around them– they give life, for a time.
Proclamation of God’s power surround Job’s words above. His own non-perception of
God is part of God’s power– his ability to work beyond human sight. Even though Job
cannot make out the Lords movement, he still attest to His action.
When Moses asks whom he shall say has sent him, God replies, “I AM THAT I AM,” or
I will be what I will be—Ehyeh1.1 Not very concrete, is it?
The deity from Avatar, Eywa, retains similar faithfulness and unpredictability. As Jake
ends his prayer for help in their battle, Neytiri tells, him, “Our mother does not take
sides. She only protects the Balance of Life.”
Likewise, God’s presence in our life is not determined by victories, but by the
relationship that we have with Him– both in times of presence, and times when he seems
absent, as if on call elsewhere, leaving us with our own courage and his heart.
Like an overseas letter correspondence– you may send letter after letter, only to receive a
brief postcard weeks later, reading, “I love you. Hold on.”
Clinging to the memory, or just a hope, of his presence, we trust that he is working in our
emptiness and our fullness.
How does one perceive the wind?
1- Exodus 3:14
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to
faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the
giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love
be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual
affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit,
serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to
the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do
not claim to be wiser than you are. – Romans 12: 6-16
When trying to determine what a “spirited life” looks like, this passage
immediately jumped out at me. Paul’s letter seems almost like a how-to essay, instructing
us on the steps to living a good life in the Holy Spirit. In fact, this passage has always
been a comfort and inspiration to me in my faith journey. Everyone has a gift, Paul says.
Everyone has a niche, their own secure spot in the body of Christ.
However, I cannot deny a nagging feeling of discomfort when I read this passage.
Paul’s faith-and-life laundry list makes living a spirited life seem so simple, when that is
far from true. What if someone feels inadequate for the niche in which they are placed?
Worse yet, what if someone feels they don’t have a niche, or any gifts to offer the body of
As young people struggling to find our way in the world, I think we experience
this doubt and worry a lot. We are encouraged to choose something we’re good at, to
study and word hard at it, and to spend the rest of our lives doing it. But oftentimes,
tendencies toward competition, feelings of inadequacy, and the panic of having to choose
threaten to overwhelm us.
This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. A few verses before this passage begins,
Paul tells us to offer our whole selves as a living sacrifice, which is our “spiritual
worship”. He encourages us not to “conform to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God”. To me, this says:
Learn. Explore. Know that your life, whatever path it may take, is a living offering to
God. Through discerning what we learn, with the help of others a long the way, we can
come to know God’s will for us.
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ – Ezekiel 37:1-6
I like Ezekiel’s response. I’ve found it all too easy to confuse faith with self-confidence: to waver between ‘being rational’ (duh, these bones can’t live) and emulating the bold faith statements of spiritual ancestors whom I admire but seldom understand (yes, of course God will make these bones live!). Truly, we don’t know. We are mortal, our minds limited as much as our years. But we are confident, not that we know, but that God knows. And this is enough.
This past year I led an amateur intellectual group on campus called ‘Thinking on Thursdays.’ I’d send an email out Wednesday night and spend Thursday evening baking cookies and recruiting guys for the late-night meeting. And 10 o’clock would roll around, I’d race back to the dorm room, arms full of food and dishes, a couple minutes late, greeting by the thunderous silence of a half empty room. A couple guys, looking around, uncertainty painted in lines above their brows. Will people come? ‘I don’t know, but let’s get started.’
We persevered. Sometimes five or ten, sometimes over twenty constituted the best discussion group I have ever been part of. Beforehand I would pray, ‘Lord, please bring people tonight, bless our time together. May your spirit be here with us.’ We begin by asking, but end with joyful submission, the acknowledgement that only God knows, and that she alone is trustworthy.
“Lord, as I face the many uncertainties of the coming weeks, satisfy my needs and cravings in ways that only you know best. Give me the confidence in your judgment and joy in the daily patience of life.”