Open Our Hearts, Open Our Lives

I’m learning to get out of the way. Sometimes that means to move over to let what’s coming through get where it’s going. Sometimes I realize it’s because I’m what’s standing in the way of me getting to where I need to be.

When I pray (someone cue MC Hammer), I get out of the way. When I am quiet, when I listen, I get out of the way. It’s a matter of clearing out my ego, clearing out uncertainty, and trusting God, allowing bigger things to work.

Lately I’ve been moving in a certain direction. I’ve listened, written things down, made a gameplan. I’ve been looking for ways to help put things in motion, ways to serve, and at the same time, still having those pangs of doubt. A friend/mentor came across a quote from Henri Nouwen and sent it along:

When all is said and done, what we must learn above all is to offer ourselves–imperfections and all–to God. If we keep waiting until we are ‘worthy’ of God, we will move farther rather than closer to Him. It is through our broken, vulnerable, mortal ways of being that the healing power of the eternal God becomes visible to us.

We are called each day to present to the Lord the whole of our lives–our joys as well as our sorrows, our successes as well as our failures, our hopes as well as fears. We are called to do so with our limited means, our stuttering words and halting expressions. In this way we will come to know in mind and heart the unceasing prayer of God’s Spirit in us. Our many prayers are in fact confessions of our inability to pray. But they are confessions that enable us to perceive the merciful presence of God. – Henri Nouwen, “A Cry for Mercy”

Sometimes I’m good with cliff diving. Sometimes I can use a shove off the ledge. Sometimes it can be just a nod. That’s where having others to encourage us along the way, fellow pilgrims on their own journeys, makes the walk easier, lighter, more certain. It can be a hard road alone.

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Pride is a funny thing. We think we need it to accomplish things. We naturally feel proud if we do something well and it turns out better than we hoped. But riding pride’s high horse can be a dangerous trip. It grows our egos and prevents us from getting out of our own way. Today’s Gospel in church was from Luke (18:9-14). It’s the parable of the proud Pharisee and the repentant tax collector. Jesus closes with:

…all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus digs parables. He’d rather make us think than tell us straight. But that one is pretty clear. Be humble, you’ll find the reward in it.

Getting out of my own way means opening myself up to possibilities. Opening my heart to the flow of what’s coming through. Whatever we choose to call it, we’ve all had those moments, whether playing sports, or fishing, hiking, playing music, running, writing, where we have felt we were in the zone, in the flow, something bigger than ourselves took over. Getting out of our own way opens us up to what God is sending through. In the Trinity notion, it’s the Holy Spirit.

And when we open our hearts, we open our lives to let things happen. To let God work. To do things, move in directions, I wouldn’t have come up with on my own.

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Opening our hearts and lives to something bigger than us, is to serve. To offer ourselves to and for a bigger purpose. The contemporary choir this morning, with a soloist, belted an inspired version of Matthew West’s “Do Something.” The lyrics pretty well sum up the notion of God/Jesus at work in the world. Working through people. The singer is fed up with all the terrible things that happen in the world and asks God to do something:

He said, “I did, I created you.”

That’s how I think about how God works in the world: through us:

But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

It’s not a song I would have listened to on the radio or downloaded. But if I could have the version that was performed in church–choir, band, soloist, live, inspired, moving an entire congregation–I would play it on a loop. It’s the kind of message that always hits me hardest. God works through people. God works through you. If you see a problem, it’s on you to fix it. To do something.

I’m learning to get out of the way. I’m learning to let bigger things work. To let God work. I’m learning to open my heart, to open my life. To serve. To do something, those things that I can do differently than anybody else could. Even me, flawed, imperfect, with my “limited means, (my) stuttering words, (my) halting expressions.”

I’m learning to get out of the way.

Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the director of the Oxford Community Center by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, trying to share my walk and story.

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