A world traveler friend met a woman in a nun's habit, in Egypt. Her name is Mother Magda, and she was surrounded by children who call her Mammie Maggie. To his great surprise he encountered her again last week in Calgary, Alberta, and heard her speak. This is from his notes which he just sent me:
Marilyn..her address was riveting , suffused with strength and humility…she spoke of her privileged, well heeled, family upbringing in which she was exposed to and experienced the best of everything including the best education in the country…she loved the ‘elegant life’ (food and music etc.) but has since come to see that the ‘true elegance’ is an ‘inner elegance’. She was told by the Lord to leave the best and brightest students and go to the poorest of the poor and then told to sell all she had and give it to the poor. She confessed how hard it was to endure the smells of the poor given her former genteel life. She was being breathed upon by the Holy Spirit to do this and began to immerse herself in scripture…she made the commitment to read the entire Bible every year which she has done for 25 years. She spoke of the true love which doesn’t give out of one’s extras but gives until there is pain..this kind of love washes the life, turns sinners into saints, heals the unwell, strengthens the weak and effects true forgiveness. I described her in my notes as a person filled with ‘affective Christocentricity’.(I found this picture of her.)She concluded by saying that whenever she goes to another country she bows down, kisses the earth and blesses the country. She asked to bless the church in a similar fashion ..so she bowed down and kissed the floor and blessed the church..her lithely done prostrations were the same as those used by the Muslims in their prayers. Her organization is named after the martyr Stephen and is the largest ministry in Africa serving 27,000 families a day. She is surely living a ‘white martyrdom’.
Isn't the phrase, 'inner elegance' compelling?
And then I drove to work listening to a sermon aired on a local radio station. The pastor is the leader of a large church in Lexington. He spoke from the passage which tells the story of Peter walking on water in response to Jesus invitation, when Jesus came walking toward the disciple's boat in the middle of the night. He makes the point that we need to step out of the boat, using his own life as the example. His story, which is the story of being invited by God to take risks that inevitably led to establishing this church, has put him into the place of leading a large non-traditional church.
It may be that you or I feel drawn to one or the other of these stories. We might make judgments.
I ponder this as I walk into my office this morning, realizing again that each of us must listen to our own life, our own heart, and the whispers of divine calling within our own spirit, and neither envy another person nor demand that anyone else live as we have felt led to. The example may be inspiring but the details are unique. Each of us must own and love our own life.