Today I had a profound lunch with some dear friends, a young couple deep in the throes of being parents for the first time. Their beautiful daughter is a few months old, barely past that stage where children sleep longer stretches in the night. My friends had been up and down all night with their little wonder but looked in better shape than I remember looking when our kids were that young.
We have a strange, multi-generational connection. My dad and the bride’s dad worked together as pastors over thirty years ago. I was honored to be the priest at their wedding. Now we sit together over sandwiches and salads and I get to hear what life is like a few months into this new journey of being parents.
What’s my vocation here, what’s my role or job? Friend? Pastor/Priest? Momentary stroller roller so the honored lunch attendee will keep sleeping?
I think my fundamental identity here is as a witness. Witness to the blessing of relationships in God’s family. Witness to multiple miracles: how God brings couples together, anointing them to bear children, and how their little girl is healthy and strong. Witness to new life, and past/present/future examples of God’s presence and faithfulness. Witness to the fact that God is, God is present, God is involved, God is faithful.
Being a witness inherently involves paying attention to and describing the actions of someone else. This act of attention moves me from the center, from self-absorption, — positioning me in proper place before God, not in control, but in response.
This lunch is easy to respond to; thanks be to God who even considers me, who saw fit to pull me into these people’s lives. Other times it’s harder to respond. I may not like what God is doing or not doing, but if I’m living in faithful relationship with God I remain a witness to and for him, even when I’m asking him why. It’s easier to try to control something, to attempt to do something on my own without pausing to ask “What does God seem to be doing?.”
Eugene Peterson writes in his book The Contemplative Pastor, “The assumption of spirituality is that always God is doing something before I know it. So the task is not to get God to do something I think needs to be done, but to become aware of what God is doing so that I can respond to it and participate and take delight in it.”
My primary responsibility then is to have good ears and eyes, to be still and humble enough that I can perceive what he is doing, get in on it, and take delight in it. He was at work in my parents and the bride’s parents long before we came along. God was at work in this man and this woman’s life long before I knew them. God is at work in their daughter’s young life even now. He is at work in mine, and I’m living maturely when I’m seeking what he’s doing and getting in on it, bearing witness to it.
That’s all I did with my friends at lunch. I sat in awe with them a bit at what God has done, bore witness to it with them, and gave thanks. I was a witness for God to them and myself.
Dean Miller is a husband, a father of three, and a priest at The Falls Church Anglican. A graduate of Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. he loves a good book, ice cream, walks instead of car rides, all sports, and any great story. He can be reached at [email protected].