In her sermon, “Prophets for a New Day,” the late Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon writes that from time to time, we have to take a “spiritual inventory;” i.e., we must review what we are doing and if what we are doing is the will of God.
Taking such an inventory is a risk if we are truly serious, because so often, what we are doing, and what God wants us to do, sent us here to do, are diametrically opposed to each other. So many of us spend and waste valuable time trying to do something that we have seen someone else doing, something which we admire, but when we do that, we often find ourselves in spiritual turmoil. We were not sent here to sing someone else’s song or write a story that God has already assigned to someone else. Each of us has a unique purpose in this life.
We butt heads with God so often, and we blame God for the bruises that result from the fight. Maybe the resistance to taking spiritual inventory comes from a gnawing in our soul that is forever reminding us that something is not quite right with what we are doing. We try to squelch that gnawing because we have a feeling that the gnawing is a sign that our own divine truth is trying to push through to our souls where truth cannot be ignored. We desire to be safe, to be comfortable, to live as we always have, even as our spirits rebel within.
What do we lose when we take the inventory, and in faith, abide by what our encounter with God reveals to us? We lose the security of sameness. In Dr. Cannon’s sermon, she retells the story of the prophet of God and his encounter with King Jeroboam, who wanted to burn incense on the altar. Jeroboam had been sent to earth by God to “go forth and prophesy against the sacrificial altars and idols of King Jeroboam.” The prophet carried out his divine assignment, making Jeroboam very angry, so angry that he reached out his arm to seize the prophet. But, Dr. Cannon writes, “in the twinkle of an eye, God caused the king’s hand to become paralyzed.” The king pleaded with the prophet to heal him and after praying, the prophet did, in fact, heal the king.
The king was now grateful and wanted to reward the prophet, inviting him to a meal, but the prophet refused, saying that he was “under divine orders not to eat or drink nor return by the same road on which he had arrived.”
He had taken inventory; he was clear on what God wanted him to do. It must have been tempting for him to have suddenly gained the king’s favor because we as human beings like being taken in and noticed by famous and rich people. But this prophet had his instructions and left the presence of Jeroboam.
There is more to the story that Dr. Cannon lifted but what her sermon suggests, among other things, is that in this day and time, when so much of what we have always known in this country and in this world seems to have been compromised, overturned or challenged, we might all need to take a spiritual inventory. What would God have us do today? What is God waiting for us to release, to let go of, so that, while we yet have time, we can live into our purpose? Who is it that we must let go of, and what emotions and grudges do we have to release, in order to be free enough to be a viable child of God?
The song, “Hush! Somebody’s Calling my Name” woke me this morning. I searched and searched for its history, to no avail; I did not find out when it was written if it was sung by enslaved Africans or much else of what I was looking for. But after a while, I stopped. Being quiet, “hushing,” as it were, is a part of the process of taking a spiritual inventory. It is in the hushing that we hear God and are moved by God. If God is calling you right now, what is God saying? What are any of us refusing to hear or to accept? The psalmist writes in Psalm 62: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God…” In the taking of a spiritual inventory, may we all find rest in God, and strength for the journey for which God set us on this earth to take.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad