Teach Me to Care and Not to Care

Lord, Adonai, to slightly paraphrase Eugene Peterson's words,

"Teach me to care, teach me to use all these occasions of need that are the agenda of my work as access to God, as access to neighbor. Teach me to care by teaching me to pray, to pray so that human need becomes the occasion for entering into and embracing the presence and action of God in this life. Teach me to care by teaching me to pray so that those with whom I work are not less human through my caring but become more human. Teach me to care so that I do not become a collaborator in self-centeredness, but rather a companion in God-exploration. Teach me to use each act of caring as an act of praying so that this person in the act of being cared for experiences dignity instead of condescension, realizes the glory of being in on the salvation, and blessing and healing of God, and not driven further into neurosis and the wasteland of self.

"And, not to care. Teach me to be reverential in all these occasions of need that are the agenda of my work, aware that you were long beforehand with these people, creating and loving, saving and wooing them. Teach me the humility of not caring, so that I do not use anyone's need as a workshop to cobble together makeshift, messianic work that inflates my importance and indispensability. Teach me to be in wonder and adoration before the beauties of creation and the glories of salvation, especially as they come to me in these humans who have come to think of themselves as violated and degraded and rejected. Teach me the reticence and restraint of not caring, so that in my eagerness to do good, I do not ignorantly interfere in your caring. Teach me not to care so that I have time and energy and space to realize that all my work is done on holy ground and in your holy name, that people and communities in need are not a wasteland where I feverishly and faithlessly set up shop, but a garden, a rose garden in which I work contemplatively.

Suffer me not to mock ourselves with falsehood.

Teach me to care and not to care,"

in Jesus' name, amen.

(adapted from Subversive Spirituality, by Eugene Peterson, pp. 167-168).

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