Thursday, April 7, 2011

Monday Morning Meditation #78: We Don't Need a Reason to Obey God

I hope you all had a beautiful, happy, and hopeful Easter. It is a bit difficult to return to the dark and despairing prophecies of Jeremiah after the joyful way in which the Easter triduum ends. Nonetheless, that is the reading in which I am soaked at the moment, both in my Bible Studies class and in my regular reading. Actually, I am not repelled by these prophecies; rather, I feel a good deal of compassion for Jeremiah. I can imagine how difficult being a prophet of God under such conditions was for him, given some of the difficult but far more modest taskings I have been given; yet, Jeremiah did as asked. In the chapter I read this morning, God told Jeremiah to buy a linen belt, put it around his waist, and not to let it touch water. Then God told him to take the belt to Perath, hide it there in a crevice in the rocks. After some time, God told Jeremiah to retrieve the belt. When Jeremiah did so, he found it ruined. Then God said:
"9 'In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless!
11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’"
Reading: Jeremiah 13: 1-11.

Meditation: I can imagine how disconcerted with God's first, second, and third set of instructions Jeremiah might have been. Buy a belt, wear it, and keep it dry? Whatever for? Why a belt? What was the purpose of wearing it? But Jeremiah did not question; he simply bought and wore the belt. But then, take the belt to Perath and bury it? That was even more strange a command. Why should he do that? What was the purpose of burying the belt? Once again, though, as strange and senseless as the command may have seemed to be, Jeremiah did as asked. Ultimately, he did find out why God wanted him to do this. Not everyone does find out the reason, but the doing of the tasking is important whether or not we know why.

Some of you may know the story of how God told Beth Moore, when she was at an airport, to brush the hair of a man with straggly hair in a wheelchair. (If you have not read the story, you can find it here: Beth Moore's Airport OA...Revisited.) She did not want to do it, but she did do it. Just as Jeremiah did as asked, as have a number of other prophets, no matter how odd the request it sounded or how embarrassing or difficult for them -- and, the important thing in both the case of the linen belt (Jeremiah) and the hair brush (Moore), is that the request made no sense to them, but they did it, anyway, assuming/trusting that God had reasons that they did not need to know.

I have personally experienced this disconcernment when asked by God to do something that I have found to be awkward or embarrassing with no understandable reason as to why it should be do. Like Jeremiah and Moore, however, I have found myself doing as asked. In one of the more embarrassing taskings, I had to ask an employee by email about the condition of his soul! (Keep in mind that I work for an organization that insists on separation of work and religion.) Like Jeremiah and Moore, I had no idea why I was supposed to do this. Like both of them, in this case, I did find out the reason although there are times that I don't. I have learned that it is not important for me to know why God wants me to do something. It is only important that I do it. Developing a level of comfort with not knowing has taken many lessons from God. I am glad I was blessed with those lessons for now obedience alone brings me much pleasure.

Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to thank God for entrusting me with one or another task, to promise to act without needing to know why, and to ask for more opportunities to serve God and His people. Then I will move on to contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.

I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:

Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)

For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.