Image by Rebecca K Photography
By Catherine Gray, Trinity United Methodist Church
Pastor Tracey’s question is “How do we witness to the good work of God in our lives?” While I know that Biblical scholars have been offering suggestions to this question for a really long time now, I think my answer depends on how I understand the question. Am I witnessing to the good work that God does in my own life, or am I recognizing the good work of God in the lives of others?
I’ll suggest that recognizing the good work of God in the lives of others is the easier question to answer. When I open my eyes to what is around me, when I let myself unwind from the rigidity of my own political stance, the divine is truly everywhere. Some days I’ll read about someone’s generosity or personally see and experience the graciousness of others, and I’m stunned by all of that beauty and power. The range can be from the smallest acts of compassion to grand gestures. I’ve so often been on the receiving end of God’s good work, and I know that it comes regardless of whether any of us are deserving. These moments sometimes feel capricious, arriving in unexpected ways and times. I know that goodness surrounds me, and I hope as often as possible I can recognize its gift, regardless of its temporality or permanence.
Witnessing my own good work is the harder question for me to answer. I can let myself get deeply mired in my own mistakes, my sins, the many times I haven’t stepped up to do what needs to be done, what’s being asked of me. I can easily let those thoughts blur all that God achieves through me, Catherine. And even when I act in some way that does bring me pride, satisfaction or reassurance that I’m on the right path, feelings of doubt are always at the edges of my feelings. Did I do that task well enough? Was that choice congruent with my values, my understanding of what is good, or was I just choosing what was easier, less costly, less challenging to the status quo?
Wandering around and through this question brings me to the need for forgiveness. To be able to witness the good work of God in our lives, we have to start with forgiving what each of us can’t do or didn’t do, what someone else can’t do or didn’t do. When we can’t forgive, we become unable to recognize God’s good work. I recognize that forgiveness requires lots of hard work; it’s so easy to say we forgive someone without also feeling what that means, how that changes one’s very heart. And that circles right back to the essential question being asked - how can we do this witnessing? By starting to forgive ourselves, by starting to forgive others. And then by recognizing the power of God’s grace and love that makes all of this forgiveness - and good work - possible.