Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Give Me What You Have

Two hundred, thirty-nine people vanish literally into thin air almost two weeks ago and I pray and learn about air-to-ground communications and satellite pings.  Vladimir Putin threatens to invade Ukraine, annexes Crimea instead, and I pray for peace and go to Google maps because somehow I think picturing the area might help me understand.  I read that corporate profits are at record highs, CEO pay is more than 300 times that of the average worker, that Corporate America believes that increasing the minimum wage will force job cuts, and all I can do is pray.  As a person of faith, I am called to bring hope and healing and compassion into the world.  But the problems of the world are too big for me.  I can't find Flight 370.  I can't do anything about Vladimir Putin or protect people from him.  I'm not smart or creative or powerful enough to change the values and behaviors of Corporate America.  I can pray, surely, but I can't help but wonder, Is this all there is to being a person of faith?  The prophet Micah says that all that the Lord requires of me is to "Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God." (Micah 6:8).  In a world as huge as complex as this one, how does one person "DO justice?"  

I look closer to home – into the tiny corner of the world in which I live and work – to see if my little life of faith looks like anything like justice or kindness to those who are suffering.  Smart and talented people close to me have been out of work for nearly a year.  People I know and love have cancer, dementia, broken marriages.  I know of people who have lost their homes.  Lost children, for God's sake.  I pray, and weep, and pass along resumes, and make phone calls and try to be useful.  But even these things are too big for me.  

The most famous words of Theresa of Avila, the 16th century mystic begin this way: "Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours, yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world…" On other days her words have been exciting, empowering.  But today they haunt me.  My compassion, my hands are not enough!  I simply can't do anything – even about the suffering I see in the faces around me!  Jesus, YOU do something!

It is here that I find myself again.  I suddenly remember that I am not the first person to be absolutely certain that what I have to give is Simply. Not. Enough.  When the disciples look around at thousands of hungry people and realize they have nothing to give them, Jesus says simply, "Give me what you have."  And it is enough.  More than enough.

So today, I may not have much to give, but I give it anyway.  I give my struggle to try to live a life of genuine faith.  I give my fears, my grief, my helplessness, my ambivalence, my ignorance.  And my hope that even these gifts – meager but real – will feed someone.

The Rev. Virginia (Gini) Gerbasi is Assistant Rector at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square