We get so used to the way we expect things to look that we often are unable to see how they actually are. At times, we get so used to how we expect God to behave that we are unable to recognize when God is doing a new thing.
Recently I visited with someone who has known me as a parish priest. That is the only role in which she has seen me function. Knowing that I have moved on to a new ministry, she took the occasion of our chance meeting to ask more about my new role.
I handed her my card, which bears the title “urban missioner,” and began describing some outreach activities with the homeless and other at-risk populations. She looked stumped. Her expression seemed to ask, why on earth would you want to do something like that?
I went on to describe how we are building a bridge between vulnerable populations and people in the pews so that we can learn to serve Christ together. She couldn’t quite grasp what I was saying, in describing a call that was different from her expectation of what a clergy person is or does. She couldn’t find an opening to plug this ministry into her worldview. Soon she quit trying. She took a different approach, one of reassurance, as she told me: “My brother also was once between jobs for a quite a while.” I can understand that way of making sense of it; some moments I am tempted to go there myself.
In 12-step meetings, members often speak of the recovery fellowship as a group of “people who would not ordinarily mix.” The depth, breadth and diversity of membership come as an unexpected surprise to most. Something amazing happens when a colorful group of folk from all walks of life, with all kinds of abilities and disabilities, get together. It is as if our minds get blown – or, at the very least, our assumptions.
For once, we know we don’t know it all, not about the others present, much less about ourselves. So, we must let go and let God. The Holy Spirit has a way in, to move and to do her thing. We let go of our old ideas and trust that maybe, just maybe, a new thing is happening. Our hearts and our lives are enlivened. God is at work. Transformation happens.