“I used to be scared of fire,” I said calmly, as a thin flame danced before my face.
I was serving as an acolyte maybe a month into my time at divinity school, recruited at the last minute to help with a chapel service. The kind of recruitment that starts with a simple favor (carry a candle) and spirals into several additional tasks like “Oh, by the way, can you also do the Scripture reading? … Oh and be a chalice bearer? … And arrive an hour early so we can go over things?” (Welcome to ministry life, I suppose.)
“Uhh, are you gonna be OK?” the other acolyte asked nervously, eyeing my fire-lit face.
With a smile and shrug, I replied in the way in which we affirm our baptismal vows: “I will, with God’s help.”
I will, with God’s help.
This has become a mantra for the new tasks I’m invited to attempt these days — tasks which can appear humanly impossible but are, in fact, divinely possible.
Or, in the words of Sara Bareilles’ hit song “I Choose You,” which “coincidentally” came on the car radio the day of that chapel service both as I drove to school and as I left, running through my head like a helpful earworm throughout the day:
“I am under-prepared, but I am willing.”
I am under-prepared to figure out vesting in vestments and processing down aisles, assisting at the altar and knowing the terminology (good Lord, the terminology) for anything that goes on and around the altar. I am under-prepared to lead morning prayer — much less the chanted morning prayer that I managed to lead a couple weeks ago. I am under-prepared to write most of the papers I am writing, because there is simply not time to develop expertise or even understanding of a topic in the one week or even one day allotted to that topic in class.
But, somehow, I am willing.
I’m quite certain Sara Bareilles was not thinking of Christian discipleship when she composed “I Choose You” (in fact, I’ve heard she was writing about marriage, which is also a lovely way to interpret the song). But, when I hear this song on the radio, I can’t help but think of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples, recorded for instance in Matthew 4:18-22:
“As he [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zeb′edee and John his brother, in the boat with Zeb′edee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.”
A call from God. And a “yes” from humankind.
God who doesn’t mind in the least — in fact, perhaps intends — that we be under-prepared for the work to which we’re invited. And humankind who needs only to be willing.