The Next Faithful Step
November 07, 2019
Lead kindly light; lead, thou me on. I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.
John Henry Newman
Everywhere I go across the diocese, people ask about my mother, Ann, and assure me of their continued prayers. Words cannot convey my gratitude, and that of our family, for holding her in your hearts. Through the grace of God and excellent medical care; with the prayers and support of many and her own fierce determination, Ann is steadily recovering from illness, life-altering surgery, and serious infection. Having lost nearly all her muscle strength, she is now walking again.
Her doctors and therapists are in awe of Ann’s recovery, and so are we. Yet with each milestone towards health, she realizes the magnitude of her loss. For she cannot return to her life before the illness. All that lies ahead is unknown, with no roadmap for this new terrain. So she must take the next faithful step toward a horizon beyond her sight. We who journey with her feel the same way.
Anyone whose life has “hit bottom,” as they say in twelve-step circles, will recognize this as the spiritual discipline of living one day at a time. Even if we could see the road ahead, our souls cannot fully grasp what is required of us now. Knowing this about us, God invites us into a posture of profound trust. It doesn’t exactly feel like an invitation, for life as we’ve known has been taken. Do we have a choice?
In fact, we do. The choice feels like surrender, letting go of the reins, as one of my horse-loving friends would say, and allowing God to guide us on this dimly-lit path. We can actively choose what we must accept and live by faith, which is no longer an abstract concept but the daily experience of following whatever glimpse of direction we’re given, and stumbling in the dark when the lights seem to go out completely.
In the months I have journeyed with my mother, as a diocese, we have moved from a strategic planning process to the adoption of a plan, and we are now in a preparation phase for the first year of implementation. On the surface, these two journeys have nothing in common, yet for me, there are striking parallels. Our diocesan plan is full of the language you would expect--it speaks of priorities, goals, metrics, anticipated outcomes, giving the impression that we have taken charge of our destiny. Yet from the beginning, this endeavor has been a journey of faith, rooted in the profound realization that as your bishop I need to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance each step of the way. We all do.
Our consultants have encouraged us to think in small, faithful steps, in a posture of intentional humility, learning as we go. The depth psychologist Carl Jung once described this way of living as “doing with conviction the next and most necessary thing.” As I watch my mother face into her future with courage, I commit to the same as your bishop, with gratitude to God for all of you who are making the same heroic decision to take the next faithful step as the Spirit guides us all.