“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you should care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:3-5 (NRSV)
We recently had the privilege of taking our son and his girlfriend on a vacation to the North Shore of Lake Superior. I know I’m biased, but we do have the most beautiful district in the Minnesota Annual Conference. To us Minnesotans, seeing the North Shore may not be such a big deal, but a winter vacation was a first for my son’s girlfriend Beth, as she has spent her whole life in North Carolina. Beth is a brave and hardy soul, but I remember how worried her mother was the first time she visited Minnesota in the winter. Her mother said something like, “Oh, I hope she survives!” J
We had the chance to hike Sugarloaf Cove near Tofte and saw breathtaking views (see photo above). Every time I see an amazing part of God’s creation, I’m reminded of the verses from Psalm 8. I marvel that God cares for us lowly humans, and not only cares for us but has crowned us with glory and honor and given us such marvelous gifts and blessings.
My thoughts then always go to the fact that if God has made us just a little lower, crowned us, and so blessed us, then there is nothing that we can’t do. All things truly are possible with God. Why then is this so difficult for us to really believe? One of the interesting things about Minnesota culture is our tendency to downplay things, and we place a high value on humility. I’m all for humility, but I see something in our culture that I haven’t experienced in other regions of North America, something that keeps us from dreaming God-sized dreams. Something that keeps us almost content with the way things are and not really believing that we can place ourselves in God’s hands and then believe that great things will happen.
Many of you know this incredible quote from Marianne Williamson from her book A Return to Love:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I truly believe Marianna’s words and have seen this phenomenon countless times in my work as a DS, therapist and consultant to congregations. Positive energy and growth is contagious. So, go ahead: Let your light shine in this new year! If you need to brag about all of the wonderful ways in which God is at work in your congregation, just give me a call! I love to hear those stories and love to share them around the district and with the bishop and cabinet.
May God bless you in 2015 with all things marvelous and great.
Susan Nienaber is Big Waters District Superintendent for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church