It all seems to relate to our Gospel reading for next Sunday, Luke 14:25 - 33: How much are we willing to give to be a follower of Christ? Are we willing to pay the price to follow Jesus? What is first in our lives? He tells his "many followers" that there is great cost in choosing him. He tells them that they must weigh the cost and choose. Have we truly chosen, or are we among those many followers who aren't really following Him -- simply walking along and listening, saying we believe and are followers, but not truly choosing to live the Christian life? What is most important in our lives?
It seems to me that we here, in a place that has every creature comfort imaginable, have become so attached to those things which give us comfort, or mindlessness, (read that as bleeping out on television, being a "workaholic", depending upon alcohol or drugs, watching sports or playing video games) that we have forgotten what could -- and yes, should, be the most important focus of our lives.
Why is it that we don't focus more on the one thing that truly can bring us the most joy that it is possible to experience? Is it because we have become so jaded with the "entertainment" or "busyness of work" that we can't allow ourselves to just sit and be with God? Is it because we have spent so little time with Her that it's uncomfortable to be in silence, doing nothing but paying attention to Him?
Yes, Jesus was telling the truth when He told those many followers that they needed to count the cost of following Him. Yes, we may lose friends and acquaintances, if they are just with us to play, and see what they can get from the relationship. If they are attached for selfish, or frivolous reasons. For what Jesus is saying is that if we are truly to follow Him, all that we have -- all that we possess in this life -- must become unimportant to us in comparison to our love for God. Somehow it seems that we should lose some "friends" or even family, if we choose to love God first. It seems obvious when I think about it, that when our priorities are in the proper order, our reality changes: we become immersed in God, and many other things fall away -- and there is a parting of the ways because we no longer relate to people in the same way we did when we were caught up in the trappings of the material world.
The most amazing thing is, that when we truly let go and release our attachment to all these things that we "love" on this Earthly plane, and focus on God as the source and destination of the only true love, we find ourselves complete -- lacking nothing -- and living in total joy.
This is what I experienced in Malawi, and what I experience in my own life when I allow myself to be still in the presence of God. It changes things. It is what makes life have meaning. What I don't comprehend is why I have such difficulty remaining aware of Him. It is the most glorious experience of my life, and yet I get caught in the mundane, and forget to focus on Her. It seems so hard in this place, back in everyday life. Perhaps this is why I had such a hard time leaving Malawi: Out there in the bush, working with the orphans and widows, God was so palpably evident...It was all I wanted to do for the rest of my life...
And then I realized that I can do more from here than I could ever do being there. That doesn't mean that I don't want to go again, and focus on certain things that I only got a glimpse of on this whirlwind trip to see so many different projects that are making a difference. But this is home, and it's where I belong.
In our Gospel for Sunday Jesus says we must hate our families, and I have trouble with that. Not only do I love my family and need to be with them; I also love my parishioners, and know that we are doing good work, growing in our love of God together. Although he literally used that word, hate, perhaps he was using it in a quantitative sense, that we should love God so much more. I don't know. I firmly believe that God is love and wants us to reflect that love throughout our lives to everyone -- perhaps Jesus was talking about attachment. There are so many opportunities to share the love of God, now matter where we are -- it seems to me to be a matter of putting God first.
I will not let go of my love of the land and the people of Malawi. They have taught me many great lessons: lessons of priorities, lessons of focus, lessons of love. Love in the deepest sense. Love that comes from deep within a relationship with God, which pours out to the entire Earth and all the people in it. For God loves all of His creation, and what I believe She wants each one of us to be is a conduit of Her love to all those we meet, and that happens no matter what continent we are on, or where we are on our journey.