Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The spiritual quality of usefulness

Last winter I spent a Saturday evening with a friend and her delightful ten year old daughter. After a delicious meal, warm conversation, and an activity, lead by the ten year old wonder, known as making “goo,” I headed home.

My friend and I attend the same church, although I am more than spotty in my attendance these days. As I hugged my dear hosts good-bye, my friend called to me, “I have coffee fellowship tomorrow.” I called back, “I have Radnor Lake tomorrow!” She then responded to this with, “you’ll be having a spiritual experience while I make coffee.”

I thought about this exchange as I drove home. True, I would have a spiritual experience at Radnor Lake. It is difficult not to have one in such a place. A nature preserve, it has hiking trails looping protected woodland and that picturesque lake. Teeming with animals, one is sure to encounter deer, turkeys, water foul, woodpeckers, or owls. The day promised a bright blue sky and sunshine. Of course I would find my bliss.

However, I am not quick to dismiss my friend’s coffee service from the realm of spiritual experience. She would spend the morning brewing coffee, serving it to others, straightening up after them and washing dishes. This time spent performing seemingly mundane tasks leads to what I call the spiritual quality of usefulness. Yes, my friend “only” made coffee that morning. But because of her presence at the coffee bar, others were free to enjoy coffee and each other’s company instead of making it themselves or doing without. And my friend had the opportunity to be useful.

This sense of usefulness is powerful. It helps us celebrate our gifts, our strengths, and the qualities we have been given by God that we then pass along to others. This ability to identify and enjoy our own strengths also helps us feel connected to a larger spiritual reality. We are connected to the earth, to every plant and animal and person on the planet. It helps us know that we belong here, that we have a place in this world, and a contribution to make. And it includes you.

No matter who you are, what your situation may be, you are a part of this world and have a place in it. I like to think of the universe as an enormous organism and myself, a tiny cell in that organism. I’m just a cell. But I have my job to do and my contribution to make. Now I’m going to get up and make it!

1 comment:

  1. Brother Lawrence would agree! Thank you for reminding us.