Friday, December 18, 2015


The Rev. Nancy E. Gossling 

I mentioned the word “vulnerability.” I had intended to offer a phrase: “a little bit excited, a little bit nervous.” True that; and yet what I suddenly realized was that I was feeling vulnerable. It’s encouraged these days, you know. In some circles, it’s good to be vulnerable. In others, it’s the very last thing you want to be, and if you think you are, you don’t ever want to admit it. People will take advantage. People will blow you apart. Globally, of course, a lot of people are feeling vulnerable and for a variety of good reasons.

I have no reason to feel vulnerable. I am well protected and defended in so many ways; and yet there I was. I was asked to offer a word. So I said, “Vulnerable.” I don’t know why.

I’m usually not a fan of poetry; and frankly I tire of returning to the same old or new wells. I find it difficult to absorb the meaning of a poem when it’s read out loud. I prefer well-crafted stories. I prefer silence, and time to appreciate the well chosen (perhaps spirit-inspired?) words of any kind of writing. When I read Steve Garnaas-Holmes poem, I was blown away by his “rough-edged wind.” For me, it was a warm wind blowing through the window beside the chair that I occupied in a church balcony. He was inviting me to take off my coat in the silence.

“Let the cupped hands of the manger hold your heart open with God’s deepest desires.” Okay. Yes, God, or someone else, keeps breaking my heart open so that it stays open. Okay. Yes, God, or someone else, keeps breaking my heart open in order to let the light shine into the darkness. Okay. Yes, God, or someone else, keeps breaking my heart open so that I know that I’m still alive. And yet, why am I too afraid to look deeply into that open heart?

I’ve heard doctors talk about holding human hearts in their hands while performing surgery. But this? The cupped hands of the manger holding my heart open? A shed waits? For what? Dust is settling and the shadows are bedding down for the night, and I am suddenly wide awake in my balcony. I am on the edge of town and at the end of the day, and although I feel as if the light is all used up, there’s a spotlight that I can’t ignore. I am feeling full of longing, waiting for my deepest ache and empty space to be filled. I think I know my desires; but what are God’s? I’m a little bit excited; I’m a little bit nervous.

Then I see those cupped hands on a manger thousands of years ago. And I see the jaws of life holding my own heart open. I wait in silence, for I know not what. I  still feel vulnerable, and I pray those hands belong to God. Peering carefully, I look. I see God’s deepest desires for you and for me. I see a baby in a manger. I see new life. I still feel vulnerable; and yet I wonder. Is God’s deepest desires for you and me to “just” keep our hearts open?