Today I shall do what I can.
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.
Between each turn of the head on the pillow, post Monday morning alarm clock calling, a quiet prayer will be whispered into the free-fall of the still empty day. I will do what I can in my speaking with Jesus, in the six o’clock half light, beside the warm heap of a slumbering husband and the cries of the marsh bound geese overhead. I will pray. I will greet Him and He will greet me, I will tell and He will hear, I will listen and He will speak some, until I am ready to sit up in bed, open his Word and read.
Maybe this morning I prayed for you and maybe you prayed for me. And maybe in a Spirit-stirred moment our tiny prayers brushed and the friction lit a spark enough to ignite and light up the darkness, creating for us both, enough light to walk in this day and more light as hope for the next. That is what I felt when I prayed, light breaking into darkness, an effortless glow, clear shining and warm. Together we prayed and the whole Emanuel reality turned inwards upon itself like a garment spread: God with us, us with God and though we seemed alone we prayed in accord with a host of heaven in waiting.
Propped up with pillows, in the light of a table lamp, I read Paul’s letter to the Philippians, his hard won words, “I have you in my heart” (Philippians 1.7). For Paul the heart was the place where Christ reigned and it was the place where he could confidently hold his friends in prayer through good times and bad times. His confidence was not in himself but in Christ. So, for me, when I am disappointed, or hurt or confused, when I have unanswered questions or things fall apart, this is where I will go. And if I see any of these things befall you, I will go to that place on your behalf, knowing Christ is there for you. I will do what I can to pull every last one of us survivors and stragglers into such a prayer place, every cast-away who flounders, the wounded and those who fight help. I will strain to bring us all into the safety of a prayer that bears the name, I-have-you-in-my-heart.
So this will be my work today: to have the same affection as Christ, just as Paul writes, “I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1.8). Today I will probably not feed the starving or visit those in prison, I will not start a NFP or change a nation with an act of political protest, I will not rescue a human slave from a trafficker or pray releases to an addict in bondage to alcohol or drugs, I will not preach to a stadium packed with eager hearted worshippers, this blog post will not go viral. But I will try this one thing, to love as He loves, to be attentive as He is attentive, to be kind, to forgive and to make peace where there is none. I will take my opportunities and do what I can.
Downstairs below and upstairs above I hear my own children up and about, climbing from beds, using the bathroom, searching for far flung items of uniform and equipment for school. I get up to greet them with a smile and a word and a meeting of the eyes. Today I will do what I can, though my bed is warm and I do not need to be up this early. This morning I am not a parent in a super hero cape or a Proverbs 31 woman of great virtue. Today does not require me to work myself up to some place of super human possibilities. Without serenade and without applause I will perform small acts of private non-heroism, just because I can.
When Andy and I walk out later we notice how much the autumn has moved on since we were last at the mere. I hold his hand and love him well, my husband who faces uncertainty: redundancy, a mortgage and bills, fragile plans for the future all to be grown out of nothing. The golden glow of early autumn, all sunshine and abundance has changed into a wind damaged turmoil of sodden leaves piled by the path, broken branches and shrivelled fruits. I count sixty whooper swans on the mere and soon there will be more. Out in the hide at the far end of the reserve I see my first marsh harrier, and wonder at its great wing span, a shallow V, cutting the air in effortless flight.
If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,” says Paul, “if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
He has been our comfort and He has been compassionate, we have known His help and He gives us hope. He says that we can have the mind-set He has, that we can be like Him in this world (1 John 4.17). Even when emotional resources are low, or challenges seem too great or when I don’t have the understanding necessary to negotiate the events that unfold before me, my trust will be found in Him. I will follow the example of Christ, and let the Christ within in me make Himself known, this Jesus who,
Being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
This is why I do what I can.