[This reflection is adapted from Marc Gellman’s response to a question he received, Newsday, January 25, 2014. Feel the weight lift as you bask in God’s loving care.]
Question: What do you do when you’re entering the last quarter of your life and feel you haven’t met God’s expectations of you?
Thank you for one of the best questions I have ever received. Your question already contains the seeds of the answer you seek. You understand that God created you. This is the most important spiritual truth you could possibly believe, and you already believe it.
The best definition I have ever heard of the ubiquitous word “spirituality” is “life lived in the presence of God.” You’re already a spiritual person because you believe you’re living in the presence of God. This means you already believe you’re not merely a material piece of meat and goo, but rather a being with a soul. You understand that God has expectations for you in life.
You want a relationship with a personal God who cares for you, loves you and wants you to find and fulfill your unique blessings. Because you love God, you want to please God but are worried whether you’ve done so by becoming the person God blessed you to be.
So let me ask: What do you think a life pleasing to God would look like? For the prophet Micah, all God wants of us is to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. For Jesus, it was serving the least among God’s creatures (Mt 25, 35-41). I take the essence of both these teachings to be the value of humility in serving God, and you’ve showed great humility by your humble question.
Be patient. The need is for spiritual perseverance. Time may or may not be running out for you, but what is true is that your spiritual journey and moments of concern will continue until God kisses you on the lips and takes your breath away.
Be patient with your journey and with your questions. I have often quoted the poet Rainer Maria Rilke on this: “I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” Your life is not a movie or novel where all the plot twists are worked out and resolved in the last frame or chapter. Your life’s journey is your life’s destination.
The rabbinic commentary on the Book of Leviticus gives more comfort to your self-doubt: “If a person uses broken vessels, it is considered an embarrassment. But if God seeks out broken vessels for his use, as it says, ‘God is the healer of shattered hearts'”.
I also love the words of the poet Barbara Crooker, who wrote: “For we are here not merely to bloom in the light, but rather, like trees, to be weathered: burned by heat, frozen by snow, and though our hearts have been broken, still, we put out new leaves in spring, begin again.”
The truth of a humble and holy life is that every day you live, you enter a new springtime and a new way to serve God and all of God’s creation.