Once upon a time, my husband and I went to a dinner party at the home of a new friend.
We were excited that we'd been invited- our host was someone new to our church and we really liked him. He was a bachelor, living in a quaint cottage (an old carriage house, I remember) on the edge of town and, from the handful of interactions we'd had with him, he seemed really smart and really fun. We looked forward to the party with great anticipation.
On the evening of the party, we all arrived with various dishes in hand. The cottage was just perfect- cozy with deep couches, a small fireplace in the corner, exposed beams and brick, a long dining table laid with a simple linen cloth the color of cream, broad floorboards and intriguing pieces of art- abstract paintings and a few pieces of sculpture- placed here and there. The conversation was easy, the combination of guests just perfect, and the different offerings of victuals that had been brought along smelled delicious. I don't remember what I brought to share, but I know that it needed a serving spoon.
The host motioned to the single drawer in the tiny kitchen.
"You can find a spoon in there, " he said, and nodded by lifting his chin in the direction of the drawer.
I crossed the room and opened the drawer.
It looked just the like picture, above.
One jumbled, jangled, mess of silverware.
I dug through and found a serving spoon.
So what. Hardly a mic drop, right?
The party was lovely, we stayed until all hours of the night, singing and talking and eating and having fun. We made new friends.
But ten years hence, I can still see that jumbled drawer of silverware in my head.
If you've ever been to my house, you know that housekeeping is not my gift.
I married someone, thank God, who enjoys cleaning and who learned from his mom how to do domestic chores with great proficiency.
After more than three decades of married life, we have a good system worked out where I cook and he cleans. I straighten things up (pens and pencils in the mug on the counter, magazines in the basket on the coffee table, shoes paired and lined up near the door, sofa pillows plumped and set upright, against the back of the sofa,) and he does the deep cleaning- floor washing, vacuuming, hands-and-knees with a spray bottle on the bathroom floor. We get it done. But most important for me is that there is a certain order to things. Now- my own silverware defies obsessively neat nesting, but the pieces mostly cooperate and lie in their appropriate column of the red Rubbermaid divider that keeps order in the drawer.
Some of us crave order and organization. We function best when the little details are ironed out, order is evident and there is some symmetry to the bits and pieces of our lives.
Others of us prefer an unharnessed environment and are more productive and creative when freed from the strictures of organization.
As a leader, I feel compelled to offer both to those whom I serve.
In a couple of days, we will be meeting as the newly expanded Council of Trustees in our diocese.
Changes to our canons at our fall convention increased the size of this group by three members and gave vote to another seven members who, previously, had not had the privilege of voting and, consequently, were not in the habit of attending each meeting. There has been some small amount of concern that this group, in its larger size, might be difficult to manage or at risk of being unproductive. I look forward to helping this group understand the organization of its body, offering new guidelines for participation, creating clean lines of accountability and inviting a process of orientation so that each person has a grasp of their place and role. We need this body to function well- for the sake of our diocese and for the sake of the mission of God.
I also hope to leave room in the structure of our organization to allow for creativity, the breath of God's Holy Spirit, for laughter and joyfulness and for building relationships. Following the theme of our diocese for this year, "Know Your Story, Live it Boldly," we will be spending time reflecting God's Holy Word and connecting stories from our own lives to the stories of salvation. We will be generous in the time needed to build relationships, listening to each other and making space for the spark of new life and growth in God.
I wonder, then, how it is with you?
This season of Advent can be a time of ordering our lives in new ways; for some, it is a letting down or letting go of habits, patterns or structures. (I practice contemplative prayer in this season which is so different than the regular pattern of the Daily Office that I normally read in its ordered form) and for others, it is a time to take on new patterns, rules or gentle guidelines to lead us to a more holy life.
Some of us practice Advent devotions that call for a different deed each day, some participate by reading a new spiritual book, others are intentional about keeping a journal or lighting a candle, night by night, to mark the days in an ordered fashion as we wait, hoping for the coming of Christ.
Which is it for you? And what does your soul need.... this year? In this moment?
Encouragement, from here, to do something different... to try on a new practice. Heck, go and dump out your silverware into the bottom of the drawer... and dare to live in a new way, as, together, we wait in the advent of our Lord.