It’s that thing where you read a random quote and you so completely identify with it you say, This is me—I embody these words. This quote tells my story and my state in just one, razor-sharp, spot-on, succinct, nailed-it line. Metaphorically, I slapped this name tag on my New Year’s Eve pajamas by posting it on social media–but instead of it saying “Pam,” it displayed Dickinson’s pithy, powerful quote.
I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.— Emily Dickinson
As of this past year, I truly:
Feel like a different person.
Don’t recognize myself anymore.
So I’ve got my lantern.
After I posted it, I defaulted to what the old “pious” Pam might think after reading the quote: “Well, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe you should be looking for GOD instead of focusing on yourself, you humanistic, self-reliant, unspiritual person.” (It was a little, familiar, shaming smack-down in case I didn’t feel bad enough about myself. ) But I didn’t delete the post because it felt true.
I have been looking for God. Sometimes He seems to be hiding.
New Pam clarified to Old Pam: It’s not so black and white. I’m not sure how, but I know it’s not that simple. It’s complicated.
Then I went about my business.
Which included getting on my bike yesterday and plugging in Sunday’s fresh sermon. We had flown home from Portland on New Year’s Eve morning, so we missed church live. So after listening to the sermon online—near the end—I heard the “answer” to Emily Dickinson’s “question,” if you will. Pastor Jeff had incorporated an altogether different quote into his sermon, this one from Thomas Merton:
“The secret of my full identity is hidden in Him. He alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, the work will never be done. The way of doing it is a secret I can learn from no one else but Him. There is no way of attaining the secret without faith. But contemplation is the greater and more precious gift, for it enables me to see and understand the work that He wants done.”
So it’s kind of both, it’s not either/or. I look for myself in Him.
How do I do that?
At the very end of Jeff’s sermon, he finishes with another quote, this one by Charles Wesley, this one a prayer, and this one I will tape to my desk at eye-level because even though it sort of terrifies me, it might reveal the secret to how. I sense this is true because the name Surrender was the “tag” slapped onto my chest a year ago. I haven’t worn it well (it falls off almost every day), but thankfully my arm still can reach the floor to retrieve it. And I slap Surrender back on.
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you, praised for you or criticized for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service. And now, O wonderful and holy God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, you are mine, and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it also be made in heaven. Amen.—Wesley prayer
Not all those who wander are lost–JRR Tolkien
Other notes from the sermon:
“What are the hardest things you had to do last year?” Yes.
“This Journey that each of us is on is one specifically designed for us in order to transform us to make us more and more who we were designed to be.”
“Choose a larger story.”
The entire Victor Frankl quote (ie “it must ensue.”)
“If you could get rid of the discomfort but you also lost the lessons that it gave you, would you do it?” (My current answer may differ from Jeff’s.)
“That orphan is chosen to belong within the family, they are invited to the table.”
“God gives us more and more opportunity to be ourselves.”
“Little affirmations don’t last.”
“We can’t lead people where we haven’t gone.”
“When I think about this next year, to me, this is what stirs my heart. I want to continue to learn more fully who I am, in light of who God is showing me to be…” (Maybe I will be holding a lantern.)
“I didn’t quit surfing because I got old, I got old because I quit surfing.” (Joey loved to surf. Joey also loved questions, Thomas Merton, JRR Tolkien, and Jeff.)