At the end of a previous blog, I posted a link to Matthew 25:14-30, which obviously stirred something in my friend Susan Carson. If you aren’t blessed by this, you’re not listening. VMS
Matthew 25:14-30 is the story of the master who gives ten, five and one talent to his three servants, and commissions them to care for his property while he is gone. You know this parable: the servant who is given ten talents and the one given five both double the investment and are praised highly by their master upon his return, while the servant given one talent buries it and returns it, intact but un-multiplied, to his master, who berates him and throws him out “into outer darkness.”
I don’t know about you, but this parable makes me a little nervous. I see myself as a very average servant, mostly doing just a fair-to-middling job of staying between the lines in life, trying to live in God’s world in what my understanding of what I was raised to believe is the “right” way (it occurs to me that right there is a fallacy worth exploring, but I will forge ahead for now). I try to be a kind, honest soul; I pray every day—several times a day, actually—try to listen carefully to discern what God would have me do in any given situation, and generally try to ease the burdens of those around me where I can. But is that enough? Actually, does any of that even necessarily count (it is, after all, the most basic of what is asked of us as Christians)?
I really want to believe that what I’m doing, in general, multiplies God’s love in the world I live in (for that’s what I read “talent” to mean in this parable—love). But how do I know? There is this tiny corner of me that wonders if he one day will call me to him , point to the path of life I didn’t take (pick one of any number of life or career paths over my lifetime) and say, “That’s the one I intended for you, weren’t you listening??” How do I know??
The fact is, I don’t know, haven’t really any clue if I’ve been on the right track or not at this very late point in my life. Whatever it is that God might have planned for me otherwise I have no idea, but here I am. I look around and take a survey of what I’ve been up to so far, and hope that God will, indeed, at least honor the intention of how I’ve lived. I have to admit though, I’ve done better sometimes than others, and I’ve often gone my own way, picking across a rocky trail off the path instead of sticking closely to the markers. Oh wait, there were markers? Darn. See what I mean?
The most I’ve been able to discern about living life in God’s world is that it seems to me we’re here to help each other along the way, whatever path we’re on. There are lots of ways to do that, and some are, let’s say, “showier” than others—but those are the things I didn’t do. I haven’t had the means to be a philanthropist, and my early years were spent rocking babies instead of marching for civil rights. I didn’t hand out sandwiches or ladle soup in homeless shelters; my time was spent feeding toddlers and gathering book bags and homework for my children and a few neighbor children who I “kept” during the week, and helping out at church where I could, when I could. But since life is messy I’m afraid I wasn’t very consistent with that, either.
What I hope, what I pray is true, is that things like the time I helped that confused elderly lady find her car in the Rich’s parking lot counts for something in the larger view; that talking the runaway teenager into calling her parents and helping her bridge the communications gap with them when they came to get her, is something I was meant to be here to do; that God intended me to be the one to offer that thin rail of a teenage boy with the mohawk haircut (one of my son’s shadier but so-needy friends) the bowl of soup that he shrugged off so carelessly but then devoured with obvious need. The smile at the grocery store clerk; a pause in traffic to let someone in; waving thank you to someone who has done the same for me…those were little things. Yes, little things, so insignificant, and yet, what would the world be without them? Where would I be without the large and small kindnesses like these done for me?
If there is a connection to the “return with interest” part of the parable we started with, it’s that little things done with love grow and multiply into something bigger than ourselves. Each tiny act of kindness, done with the love of God at its center, makes up part of a larger whole, and that whole is the body of Christ, poured out for us, in us, through us. Please God may I be even a small vessel pouring out your love in my tiny corner of your world, as you were Love itself, pouring yourself out for all of us. It is a small return to make for what you gave us, but it is all I have to give.