“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Kayla Mueller, an American hostage of ISIS, has been in the news a lot since her death was announced. Her Christian faith and love, inspirational to her friends and family over the years, is now being recognized by the wider world. In confirming her death Tuesday, the Mueller family quoted an earlier letter the young woman penned to her father on his birthday in 2011.
“I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you,” Kayla reflected. “I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”
In her final letter, she wrote “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another…”
A friend, the Rev. Kathleen Day, recently commented, “They tried to silence her. They locked her up. They kept us silent out of fear. But now she is free. She said she found freedom even in captivity. Her light shines. And we thank you for shining your light, not on Kayla, but shine your light on the suffering that Kayla saw.”
As humans, our political solutions to the world’s problems may differ. People may disagree over faith issues. Yet, I think we all could learn something important from Kayla.
Our lives need to be shaped by the love of Christ, who humbled himself to serve us and set us free to love.
Certainly, God will present us with different calls and spiritual gifts. (Charisms some call this.) We will find Christ reaching out to each of us differently through ordinary people, places, situations, and for some perhaps a more direct, mystical call. It might prove hard to see the Christ in others, and at times, ourselves. Still, we are all created and called to share in the same purpose: making God’s love manifest in the world.
Most simply, we are asked to love God and one another.
Through our faith and baptism, Christ declares us the children of God; a God who is only love. Our acts of love – no mater how small – will never be wasted. We and the love we seek to share remain God’s own forever. It changes our world a relationship at a time. God intends to use us all – liberal, conservative or anywhere in between.
Listen for Christ’s call in your life at all times and in ever place. Seek him even in the utmost darkness when God seems most silent and far way. Don’t fear mistakes or rejection, but instead love with abandon. For, God’s kingdom will surely come. It is already at work through remarkable people like Kayla and like you, children of Love created and sent to this time and place.
Some might argue, “…but I’m no saint.” Yet before we ever recognized it, the Love which is God knew us. Jesus promises to be with us always. The Spirit is sent to sustain us. Wherever we find ourselves, it is the right time and place for us to make Christ’s love known throughout the world. For, deny it as we may, we who believe in Jesus are his saints in communion with the Heavenly Host and one another. We are never alone, and our lives prove part of a sacred plan bigger than ourselves. Miracles will happen (both large and small) when we only seek to love.
So, seek Jesus in your life as Kayla tried to do – in nature, love, suffering, whatever. Keep your heart and mind open, for God can meet you anywhere and at any time. Don’t be afraid. We won’t all be called to martyrdom. (Yet, if we ever are, Jesus will help us find freedom even then.) We only need start with our small piece of the world. Our context is our mission field. Our gifts are Christ’s own.
Just try to love those Christ has entrusted to your care or sends to intersect your life. Seek and serve Jesus in others. He is there. Don’t fear mistakes but please reflect upon your actions as honestly and gently as possible. Speak with trusted friends and spiritual advisers to help you discern your course. Listen to those who oppose you with patience and a desire to learn. Be open to repentance if you ever sense you are wrong.
As scripture attests, you were created to be a child of Love. Do your best to love. Then, trust Christ has done or will do the rest. He’ll lead all his children home.
Picture: A photo of Kayla Mueller previously volunteering as a relief worker in India found on AZCentral.com
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.
© 2015 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.