Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, cartoonist H. T. Webster re-created the event by depicting two Kentucky woodsmen meeting on a snow-covered wilderness path. The two exchanged news of the swearing in of the new president, James Madison. They wondered how much of Europe Napoleon would be able to conquer. Finally, they discussed the local news. One of the men mentioned that a baby had been born at Tom and Nancy Lincoln's place. And both agreed that nothing much of any consequence ever happened in their out-of-the-way corner of the world.
I find that same point of view when I ask people to talk about their own faith journey. There is a denial of a spiritual journey of any depth or significance, accompanied by some reluctance to share what little they see present.
I believe the truth is just the opposite. Every single one of us has struggled with issues and relationships, carried burdens and suffered silently, persisted with unfulfilled longings and dreams, and attempted to serve God and live out our deepest values. Every single one of us is a deep reservoir of experiences which, when acknowledged and articulated, makes us experienced travelers on the spiritual path. Every single one of us is on the cutting edge of our own journey, and we all have stories of victories gained and defeats endured (unlike Lucy who, on hearing Charlie Brown say that life has its ups and downs commented, "Not mine! Mine is up, up, up!"--unfortunately, I've actually known people like that).
In contrast to former years, I now am very cautious in sermons and conversations when I hold up models such as Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa, lest their extraordinary gifts lead others to discount their own experiences--nothing much of any consequence takes place here. The great, instead of being examples to emulate, easily become icons to one's own insignificance.
One of the deep pleasures I have as a minister is that I hear the human journey of others, and I am able to share my own peregrinations. Through the often expressed struggles, fears and disappointments, I find a deep integrity and nobility in the humans struggling for meaning and hope. I am often in awe of others' efforts to make sense of their lives. It is with others, in such conversations, that I feel that deep reality we call God.
For many to believe what I have written will require a conversion. But, why not? The Spirit continually tugs at us, enticing us to claim our part in the magnificent journey we all are on. Nothing is stale or secure when the Spirit is stirring-not even belief in our own inconsequence.
--Robert H. Tucker
18 May 1998