Karen Rodman was charming, vivacious and enterprising. She instigated more good works than I could list. The entire arc of her professional and personal life was dedicated to making the world a better place in one way or another. She possessed a huge heart and a pioneering spirit. She lost her life too early to cancer last week, and her memorial service was Friday.
I’ve been lingering over something her priest said in his homily. It was an uncharacteristically evangelizing and passionate homily, by Episcopal standards. The priest sought to reach mourners right where they were in their faith journeys, and according to at least one friend, he reached his mark. He claimed that once one accepts oneself as a beloved child of God, and moreover, once that becomes the central pillar of one’s identity, the pressure to perform is off.
I couldn’t disagree more. Or at least, that does not track my journey in faith. My experience is informed more by the notion that to whom much is given, much is expected. When I contemplate the incredibly lucky hand I’ve been given—and let’s face it, anyone born in North America got a pretty lucky hand, globally speaking—I feel a great pressure to do good with it. If sufficiently focused on the abundance in my life, I cannot conceive how much must be expected. It is humbling beyond words.
A now retired priest in my parish was fond of saying, “Beware of arriving safely because you sailed too close to shore.” I know there is a time for rest, but there is also a time for stretching to the point of discomfort. Scripture abounds with examples of the faithful
who leave the place that’s comfortable and answer God’s call to venture into the unknown.
The Reform Jewish prayer book recalls what Abram had to leave behind in order follow God’s call. Abram left his homeland, his friends, all he had accumulated over a lifetime, and all that was familiar–for what? He didn’t have an answer, but he had trust and hope. “Radical Leaving” is what the prayer book calls Abram’s courageous step, and Rabbi Norman Hirsh’s poem “Becoming” describes how we encounter it.
Once or twice in a lifetime
A man or woman may choose
A radical leaving, having heard
Lech lecha — Go forth.
God disturbs us toward our destiny
By hard events
And by freedom’s now urgent voice
Which explode and confirm who we are.
We don’t like leaving,
But God loves becoming.
Karen embraced this radical leaving, undoubtedly more than once in her life, but certainly at her life’s end. When we said goodbye the last time, she expressed such exuberant and contagious hope—hope for a medical miracle, hope for an adventure beyond bodily death, hope for the world she was leaving behind and hope for friends and her daughter’s long life ahead. I pray for God’s blessing on her becoming.
Join the conversation. How have hard events or freedom’s urgent voice exploded and confirmed who you are? Do we ever encounter our destiny any other way?
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.