“Even the longest journey must begin where you stand” is one version of Lao-tzu’s famous quote. And it is true! Action arises from stillness which, in a faith setting, is the stillness of listening to that small quiet voice of God. For it is this voice that speaks of compassion, reason, wonder and love; all the while reminding us of our place in caring for what is entrusted to us. We are called to act not just to be. Actions speak louder than words and so often it is the response of one person who decides to take the journey and steps out of the stillness that makes a difference.
I was recently reading a story about Garfield Weston, who in August 1940 went to the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and started what became an incredible fund raising effort throughout Canada to supply equipment to win the war. Distressed at the loss of life in the early stages of the Battle of Britain, Weston told the minister that “only God can replace those boys, I’d like to replace the machines.” He then handed over a blank check allowing the minister to fill in what was needed. His gift prompted many others to follow suit and ultimately involved nationwide fund raising teas, car washes, fairs, raffles, dances and the like.
By stepping out from where he stood Weston got so many others invested in helping build aircraft that the project took on a life of its own . . . touching people in virtually every community in Canada. This was amazing to say the least. Weston was doing nothing new, even the precedent of funding aircraft had already been set, but his actions were a heartfelt response to suffering.
Those who followed in his footsteps did not do so because they were personally in danger or only looking out for themselves. Rather Weston’s initiative touched at a different level. I think that deep down was the realisation this was part of a mission that meant something, a mission whose goal – whether spoken or not – was the restoration of the human spirit that was being so overtly degraded overseas. A mission that was successful in doing so.
Sadly though, such degradation is not gone and springs up through other outlets. The fight against misery, tyranny, loneliness, boredom and all that afflicts the soul of the creature made in God’s image is ever with us. As Christians we are ongoing participants in a continuing mission of resistance, carried out in different times and places and ways for “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” (Gal 4:6) Stewardship allows us to creatively channel resources into the goal of relieving suffering and proclaiming the Good News which is the fundamental mission of the Church stamped in the baptismal vows of every member. It is a stand against a hardness of heart. Stewardship in a very real way, through concrete action, helps straighten paths made crooked. It is simply practical spirituality and profoundly life affirming. It is a yes to God.
In a very tangible way Weston’s planes gave hope to those who were oppressed, reminding them that it need not always be so, that even in the darkest hour they were not forgotten! His act of sharing resources in a timely manner brought out the best in others who rose to the challenge alongside him. One person can make a difference. . . .
Each of us is called to be that person when the need arises. Each of us has the chance to participate in the work of mission as our hearts awaken to God’s purpose and we are emboldened to step out of the stillness. To find our way we ask that the Holy Spirit give us courage and wisdom to follow Jesus truth in gently guiding, probing, pushing, leading, beckoning, calling us to see stewardship as a rule of life and a way of love.