Our neighbor, Maria Magdalena, whom we know and love as Magda, died alone in the middle of the night. Her lungs collapsed from a respiratory infection after a bout with the flu. We prepared food for many of her family when they came in from Mexico.
After her husband, Adrian, drowned in the lake behind our homes almost 5 years ago she was too sad to worship at the Romanian Baptist Church where they had married 19 years ago. She was active in a nearby Bible church with others in the neighborhood.
At the visitation we were a little surprised that a Hispanic deacon we know was there to say the Rosary. But of course, those from Mexico needed to say those prayers. It is part of their culture, part of who they are, and who Magda was as a child. The deacon alternated between Spanish and English decades. We were the only ones in our area of the chapel saying the decades.
The row of teachers from the school where Magda taught first grade, all remained seated in front of us. I just did the appropriate thing—knelt and prayed the Rosary behind them.
The pastor of the Romanian Baptist Church delivered a long evangelistic tribute to Magda and her late husband in English. I wondered how many in the chapel that spoke only Spanish or Romanian understood him. It was truly a diverse service.
As we were leaving, one of the teachers who had sat in front of us came over to me and said, “Your voice is so soothing—I didn’t know what they were saying during the Rosary and now I understand a little better.” I smiled and thanked her.
How odd for her to thank me for just being who I am. Everyone in that chapel was just being who they are—in the presence of the Lord. He meets us where we are—as we worship in Romanian, Spanish or English; whether we are kneeling, standing or sitting; as we are singing, praying or listening—even when we don’t know what the words mean. The Lord comes to meet us where we are. In his presence we can just be ourselves.
Opening our hearts to his Spirit and experiencing his presence within us puts us in a state of protected vulnerability. In God’s presence, we are vulnerable to his influence, the whispering voice of his guidance. He protects us from the fear attacks of not being “good enough” by showering us with unconditional love. He protects us from fear of people hurting us by healing us of past hurts. He protects us from pride attacks that try to tell us we must control everything by reminding us that he does it better. He protects us from insecurity attacks by gracing us with confident assurance that we are secure in him. He protects us from failure attacks by teaching us that lasting success comes to the poor in spirit.
In his protective custody, we are truly ourselves. We are free to stop struggling to try to know what God wants. We stop pretending to be who we think we should be. Protected vulnerability is the gift of awareness of grace, awareness of the unlimited power of the Spirit resonating from within us when we are just ourselves.
(© 2012 Nancy H C Ward)