February is the month of longing.
In a long winter, we long for sunshine. In unusual political times, we long for clarity. Valentine’s Day can leave us longing for love, companionship, or just a really fantastic cupcake. If we raced straight from Advent to preparations for Lent, we long for quiet, and a moment to breathe. If surgery has been on the schedule, we long to move without pain, and to feel energetic again.
Our wise bloggers write about different desires this week.
New mom Traci Smith is longing for us all to have some sense when we talk to pregnant women. We’ve all learned not to pat pregnant women on the belly (we have, haven’t we?) but we haven’t learned what to say. Smith says that people still say things like “Wow, you’re enormous!” Or, perhaps, “Wow, I hope you don’t have the baby right here!” “Are you sure there’s only one baby in there?” “You’re gigantic!” “You look like you’re about to pop!” Smith adds, “Unsolicited comments about the size of one’s belly are never welcome, but for some reason, people feel like pregnancy is an exception to this rule. Few people would walk up to an overweight person and say “Wow, you’re ENORMOUS!” Yet to pregnant women, it happens all the time. Baffling.”
Spoiler alert: Smith advises that the proper comment, for all situations, even when something else pops into our minds, is: “How are you feeling?” or “You look beautiful/healthy/happy/wonderful/radiant” or “How is everything?”
Valentine’s Day can be blissful – or hard. Tara Ulrich longs for a wider understanding of the day, and for us all to see our worth outside of traditional romantic pairs. She reminds us, “today especially I need each of you to continually remind me that I am one of God’s beloved. I need to know that my life isn’t wrapped up in my singleness. I need to be reminded continually that I’m not past my prime. I also need to be reminded that there is even beauty in the uncertainty of it all. (So much easier said than done)…I’m single. Not sick, not a problem and not past my prime. So please don’t pity me on Valentine’s Day, because today of all days, I need your help to remember that my value doesn’t rest in a relationship status, in a box of chocolates or in a red rose. It rests in the fact that no matter what lies ahead of me, I am God’s beloved and His plans for me far exceed the feelings of a day.”
A longing for certainty leads us to interpret some scriptures as fixed, set as guidance for all times and places. Professor Wil Gafney sets that aside and begins with the provocative title “Jesus Rewrites Scripture and So Can We.” Looking at the scriptures from Matthew 5 where Jesus says things like, “You have heard it said…but I say…” Gafney reminds us that Rabbi Jesus is interpreting the scriptures as he teaches.
She adds: “Jesus is our example in all things. He is out teacher, our rabbi. We are to do what he did to the best of our ability. In this case, that means we are to wrestle with scripture, wrestle with the meaning, and when necessary, wrestle a blessing out of it, which means wrestling with those bruising passages that have been used to hurt us and so many others. That includes some of today’s lesson, verses of which have been used to keep folk in unsafe marriages, or ostracize other marriages, even in church.”
A longing for perfection leads Rachael Keefe to reflect on her lack of singing ability, and then to realize that the desire to sing is part of a deeper issue. She shares with us that “It was the desire to be perfect that was my personal demon. If I’m honest, it still is on occasion. During my teen years, I was so enamored with the idea of perfection that I nearly traded my life for it. I was driven by the idea that if I were perfect, then I would not feel pain and I would be loved.”
In a stable job, we long for room to be creative. As freelancers, we long for stability. MaryAnn McKibben Dana explores the different joys of being, as she calls it, “a free-range pastor.” For anyone pondering a change of vocation, she says, “I love my quirky unofficial parish. I’ve been called upon to pastor people in a whole range of settings: walking the kids home from school with a gaggle of parents, via Facebook message, and even while running—trying to explain the Reformation while running a hilly eleven-miler was a special challenge.”
What are you longing for in these February days? Let us know, and share your hopes, in the comments section below.
Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church. Her greatest spiritual lessons come from being the parent of a teenager. She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.
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