Jesus taught us, saying: ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a tub or under the bed? Surely to be put on the lamp-stand? For there is nothing hidden, but it must be disclosed, nothing kept secret except to be brought to light. Anyone has ears for listening should listen.’ Mark 4:21–23
When we say to people, “I will pray for you,” we make a very important commitment. The sad thing is that this remark often remains nothing but a well-meant expression of concern. But when we learn to descend with our mind into our heart, then all those who have become part of our lives are led into the healing presence of God and are touched by God in the center of our being. We are speaking here about a mystery for which words are inadequate. It is the mystery that the heart, which is the center of our being, is transformed… into God’s own heart, a heart large enough to embrace the entire universe. Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war all hunger, loneliness, and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God’s heart has become one with ours. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart
I am pretty sure that I was the only one doing the hand signals to “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” yesterday during the Eucharist service. The hand signals I learned so very many years ago in that tiny Sunday School room up at Fallsvale Community Church. And sometimes we would sled down the hill to church, and then have to take off our snow pants and hang them up on a hook to dry and we would be wearing short little dresses because back then girls had to wear dresses to church even if there were three feet of snow on the ground. But I never forgot the flannel graph stories and the Bible verses that started with the different letters of the alphabet. Or the hand signals to “This Little Light of Mine.”
And maybe my students even now are learning about the Big Heart Love of God. And dear God, may they never forget this love. Because yesterday, and every day, we are led through a contemplative prayer of confession, of thanksgiving and of supplication. And we let our mind descend into our hearts with our prayer requests for His healing, for His mercy, for His justice, for His presence. And every morning, one by one, I look at each of these children and hold them and carry them down the staircase of my heart.
Because only He knows the back story. Really. And yesterday I met with our principal. To ask for some back story of a Native American student who was shutting down completely. Except for reading his Harry Potter book. Through science, through math, through Spanish class. And I imagine all the other time between. And the first and second week he did pretty well and showed me that he could be the one to answer of the higher order thinking questions that pretty much befuddled everyone else because he was a thinker.
Last year CPS took him away from his mom and he lived with his grandma. And then his mom got out of prison and went through rehab. And last spring they had visits on Saturdays. And this summer he moved back in with her. And he is an only child so it is just the two of them. And Monday all he would say to me is that he is in big, big trouble. So he reads his fat green Harry Potter book. And I met his mom when she was serving lunch yesterday and she seems like the sweetest thing ever, and stories are never easy and clear and right now there is a lot hidden and secret that will be brought to light.
And I embrace these children with my heart. The heart I share with God and His heart that is Big Enough. And one by one I bring them into the healing presence of God. And I guess that is the real reason that I am working at Imago Dei. Because I didn’t quite know what to do with all of the news reports about Syrian refugees and the Sudanese civil war and Boko Haram kidnappings and Guatemalan protests except maybe to learn the names of twenty seventh graders and twenty eighth graders and to begin to embrace them with the shared heart of God. And really I haven’t figured out how to teach them how to do long division with decimals and to analyze what is the independent variable in an experiment or how the ¿Cómo se llama? Me llamo thing works. And especially how to line up and walk with some semblance of dignity over to the Museum of Art and to not bog up the whole sidewalk and to not jump over the bicycle racks at the library and to show respect and honor to the teacher there and to the art there, but I will keep trying to figure it out.
This little light of mine. I am going to let it shine.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name. Psalm 86:11
Oh, to have my heart knit to His.
And my Friday fixed prayer for me, the one that God laid on my heart for so many years, has a fresh understanding this morning: Me: I pray that I will be a light to the nations as He declares new things. Wow. I have prayed that for a long time. May it be so.