Monday, January 21, 2013

Dispersion


But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 1:5 

      More often than not I find my life has come full circle. A hallmark of “middle age”; realizing that I have traveled long and hard to move past something only to discover I am right back where I began.  Even the subject of our women’s scripture study, The Epistle of James, takes me back to my Christian roots. James verse 1:5 was the first bible verse I memorized as a new Christian in college. I can still see Pastor behind the pulpit expounding on his sermon. I was enthusiastically taking notes. Who is more in need of wisdom than a college student?  That was something I could sink my teeth into; I had an exam coming up.

     Now almost thirty years later I find myself still lacking, on my knees, seeking wisdom. If only Literature or Calculus were the extent of my worries. James addressed his epistle to his brothers in Christ who were “in dispersion”. As a group we were asked to reflect on the concept of dispersion as it relates to Christians today. It was apparent to me that Christians are certainly not unified. We are not held in a place of respect: we live in a culture dominated by values that contradict our beliefs.

     My reflection was based on dispersion as a cultural issue, the communal effects of disunity. Jeff Cavins, author of the study, related the idea that we are dispersed from our heavenly home. But Clarissa, a thoughtful and gracious member of our group, viewed it intimately. We are dispersed, she said, as a family. I saw her point immediately. Clarissa is a woman I hold in high esteem. Widowed several years ago after a life well lived farming and raising nine children, Clarissa found herself alone. She relocated from her home near Atchison, KS to our parish to be near her son and his family. There was no one left near the farm. Nine children and not one of them stayed. She left everything she’d built her life on in her twilight years and started over here.

     Clarissa’s response illuminated the effects of dispersion on the most human of levels. When we lose our bonds to our family, we lose our roots, our memorial stones, and sometimes our sense of direction. Dispersion has to do as much with spiritual allegiances as geographical locations. We can only choose our own path. Those we love may choose another. They may disperse. It is isolating to stay on course when those we love change directions. Choosing to love the Lord with all our heart and act accordingly is counter cultural and those we love may feel a strong desire to follow the culture. It isn’t a new story, but that doesn’t make the reality any less painful.

      Now I seek wisdom of another sort; the wisdom to bring unity with those I love in a culture that screams, “Disperse! Go your own way, meet your own needs, and please yourself. God loves you and He wants you to be happy. Go love yourself!”  The beauty of God’s Word is that it is just a relevant for me today as it was then. He is merciful and meets me where I am on the path. Maybe that circle is more of a spiral after all.