During Oct. 22-24, 2012, the fall meeting of the Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) took place in Wichita Kan. We met at a Catholic retreat center during wonderfully mild Kansas fall days and nights. CLC is the twice-annual meeting of representatives from all 21 of the area conferences of Mennonite Church USA, as well as representatives from the four constituency groups representing people of color in MC USA. Program agencies also send representatives.
Nicole Francisco and Edward James from Calvary Community Church and Chuck Neufeld from Illinois Mennonite Conference led our worship times. (See photo.) And Ervin Stutzman, Executive Director for MC USA, led us in thinking about how “discernment” is important as together we determine how to make decisions and move forward as a church body. We spent time around tables (see photo) deliberating on the topic of discernment as well as hearing other reports from various parts of the church.
One of the important steps in the discernment process that Ervin shared with us is called “shedding.” In this part of the discernment process, each individual prayerfully considers what they feel passionate about and what they are willing to lay down or “shed” in order to follow only God’s leading on a particular topic or direction. It is fine to clearly (and even persuasively) share one’s personal opinion about a particular topic or direction, but then one must be willing to lay it down and listen to the voices of others. Ultimately we are all asked to lay down our own inclinations in order to be free to pick up God’s leading and direction.
I have been thinking about this with respect to Psalm 130. A few weeks ago I was journaling on this text and noted that if we sincerely want the Lord to hear our plea (“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Hear my voice!” [v. 1]), then we must also be ready to be equally attentive to God’s answer to our pleas (“My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman waits for the morning” [v. 6]). We should not expect God to give us undivided attention unless we are willing to reciprocate. And one of the ways we can demonstrate our willingness to wait for God’s answer is to let God’s timetable unfold in God’s timing, not our own.
As the Psalmist says in verse 5, our hope is in God’s word. But sometimes we must wait for that word. We may have to “shed” or lay down our own agenda in order to embrace and pick up God’s agenda. That is sometimes difficult to do, especially when we feel the issue is so important. But that is all the more reason to lay down our own agenda and pick up God’s — especially when the matter is really important.
May we find ourselves more and more willing to “shed” in order to faithfully “be led” by God!