By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Psalm 103:1 (NRSV)
“On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.” My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (1834)
Dr. Robert Franklin, former president of Morehouse College, tells a story of a Renaissance artist who made the world’s most prized vases. A foreign visiting apprentice came to observe his method. After laboring for many weeks with one piece of clay—firing it, painting it, baking it—he placed it upon a pedestal for inspection. The apprentice sat in awe at this thing of unspeakable beauty. But it appeared that the artist was not yet finished. In a shocking and dramatic moment, the artist lifted the vase above his head and dashed it against the floor, breaking it into 1,000 shards. And then, quietly, he reconnected the pieces by painting them with a paint of pure gold. Each crack reflected in this valuable gold. In the end, this magnificent, but imperfect piece became the most valued piece in the collection.
Life has the capacity to break all of us, yet we draw comfort in knowing that we are stronger at the broken places. The artist created by his own standard, not by the expectations of others. He was keenly aware, grounded, in his own goals, even if they were not understood by those around him. His trusting of the process and his instincts led to even more beauty, even when others saw the seemingly perfect vase and thought it was enough.
Being grounded. Being present in mind, body and soul, allows us to feel centered and balanced no matter what is going on around us. If you’re not grounded, you’re like a leaf in the wind, vulnerable and thrown off balance very quickly.
As the hymns and children’s songs teach us, the wise man built his house upon a sturdy rock rather than a shifting sandy surface. The rock is solid, but the sand is sinking. The foundation supports all that is built upon it, so it must be strong enough to sustain the winds and the storms of life that inevitably come.
Being grounded and mindful gives us the ability to be completely aware and conscious during the present moment. Practicing spiritual disciplines helps us become aware of our own emotions and simultaneously help us notice the inner world of those around us. This awareness is the kind that can deepen relationships—a heightened sense of self coupled with an intentional focus on God and others. Understanding that our lives are all connected within God’s larger story —where there is always more than meets the eye—is an amazing gift.
Being grounded, centered, means you have a reference point or place to come back to in the midst of life’s challenges and emotions that push you off balance. This is the importance of balancing your mind, body and spirit – shifting from only self-care to the deeper need of soul-care.
Think of the pearl. Others simply see an oyster, yet inside is a precious surprise. It has been said that, “All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” Even if the oyster is all that is visible on the outside, the pearl is the oyster’s telling of its own beautiful story.
As people of faith, we understand the great depth of blessing and privilege it is to serve God. We know it is a joy to roll up our sleeves and sacrifice for something greater than ourselves, sharing in a mission that makes the world a better place. And we also know that we must be willing to take that next faithful step into mission without knowledge of the beauty that can be found under the surface or in the broken places.
We cannot control the surrounding circumstances of our lives, but we can choose intentionally to ground ourselves in relationship with Jesus Christ, our Sustainer and caretaker of our souls. We can bless the Lord with our souls – with the hidden pearls of beauty that are within each of us.
When we ground our lives in Christ, God works within us to make us the people we need and ought to be.
And now, as children of the Triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—let us pray: “Father, help my unbelief when I question whether I can make it to the end of the week, much less the end of the year. Lift us up when we are weak, feel alone, are conflicted and under attack from the enemy. I pray that I am armed with Your strength and that You make our way clear today. Amen.”