Today I was sitting in church listening to the Gospel lesson, and a thought occurred to me. Admittedly this is not going to be a well-thought out post...but...that never stopped me before.
The Gospel was from Luke, "And so I say unto you, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." I'm fairly sure I've heard this gospel a hundred times in my life in the church, and yet the primary emotion for me today was one of doubt.
You see, I've known a lot of people in my life who aren't ever going to ask. They've been too wounded. It hurts too much. Maybe it's because they've been burnt by the church. Or because they've suffered wounds too deep to be able to believe that if they ask they might get what they want or need. The hope of it all has been beat out of them. Or maybe it's just because they aren't really the seeking kind. What about those people? What happens to them? If they never find their voice to ask, how will it work out for them?
Or perhaps it's not even that they don't know to ask, but they're not sure what it is they're asking for. I'm familiar with that scenario. "Um, God, I don't know where the hell (oops sorry God) you want me or how you want me or what you would like from me. But I'm here. And I want to understand. And I hope you want to understand me too." I'm not sure what my question is there, but surely it's not clear to me. I hope God can translate "confused and disoriented in Missouri" well enough that those well-meaning prayers count as "seeking."
There are even others who are lost. They have wandered in the woods so long, that they can't make it back out. What happens if they never get to the door in time? If their whole lives is an exercise in trying to survive and they never get to the point of seeking. In my opinion, it's hard to be a seeker if you're hungry and homeless or an addict or a mother of 4 and not sure where you're going to get your kids' next meal. Seeking in those situations seems an existential luxury that many never have.
I have to believe that God didn't mean the passage in Luke the way it sounds. That it never begins or ends with what we can muster up on any given day or time. That if we are weary and hopeless and confused and preoccupied, that She will seek us out. That if we cannot find the strength to lift our hands and knock... that if our voice has been stolen and disregarded by this world...that if we cannot seek, because we cannot bear the thought of another loss...that God in her wisdom and abounding love gets that and is able to meet us wherever we may be in ...this ...very ...moment. That She knows our hearts, our intentions, our capacity to love; and that rather than condemning our efforts, however small and insignificant, that She cherishes each of those moments when we are able to seek Her out. That She is delighted when we stumble over our words and hide our faces in doubt...but still offer what there is offer of ourselves. When we stand before Her and say that I don't know and I'm unsure and I'm fearful of how it will all work out...but still I have faith that God is good.
Even when I'm afraid to seek or ask or knock...I know that God still hears, responds and loves me. For all of my Lutheran upbringing, I have to think Luther stopped just short of getting it. While I agree that salvation is not something that can be earned...I would take it step a further and say I'm not sure Jesus cares much about how sorry we are or whether we have repented sufficiently. I have to believe that God loved us from the start. That anything good comes from God. And that we are enough on our own. Even when we don't know it or can't accept it or can't come to it on our own.