By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist
What God wants his children to possess in amazing measure is a quality of relationship with him, and thus with life-giving collateral healing, joy, and love extending also to others, that for our souls will be light dispelling darkness, health vanquishing disease, and warmth allowing no room in our hearts for anything at all marked by the cold chill of death.
I’ve been enjoying again Jan Karon’s “Mitford” book series. I love spending time with her Father Tim, the winsome Episcopal priest of Mitford’s little “Lord’s Chapel” church.
Father Tim is a fine and warm man and a wonderful pastor to his flock, but he is human. Particularly difficult for him to overcome has been the upbringing of a father who was a cold fish — a stern, chilly, and aloof man. God’s best blessing to Timothy, his salvation, was an amazingly warm mother whose love and light kept her son from being frozen by his father’s winter.
Most of the inhabitants of the village of Mitford would be shocked and incredulous should anyone refer to Father Tim as anything but open and warm. But Timothy himself knows that, though he is blessed to be a good friend and have good friends, he has always had difficulty opening up in a vulnerable way even to those closest to him.
As the story unfolds, Father Tim, who is 60 or so and has long since put aside any idea of marriage (remember, he’s an Episcopal priest and not Roman Catholic) is surprised when God brings into his life a beautiful new neighbor named Cynthia Copperfield. God uses her to begin to “open him up” in ways he’d never thought possible. “Locked doors” in his heart and soul begin to swing open, and, as the author writes, Father Tim “felt a kind of thaw, a snow melt. Something was being released and healed.”
The good rector tells the love of his life, “I read something the other day: ‘What is asked of us in our time is that we break open our blocked caves and find each other. Nothing less will heal the anguished spirit nor release the heart to act in love.’ . . . Locked doors. Blocked caves. It is all the same. It is so hard to be real.”
Father Tim is onto something, something at the very heart of the good news. Our souls don’t have to remain distant from God and others, blocked by cold stone. Two of the largest stones blocking our lives and crushing out our joy are Pride and stone-cold, sick, and legalistic Religion.
When God through the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit rolls away forever that stone at the garden tomb, he magnificently irradiates our lives with love and joy and blasts away the stones that have shut us off from Him, from each other, and from light, joy, and warmth.
What a shame if we choose to start stacking them back up.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org