In today’s reading (Matthew 9:36–1:8), Jesus talks about harvesters:
Jesus said to his disciples: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
I’m always intrigued by what you have to say about harvesters, God, because my name, “Theresa,” means “harvester.” And I’ve never totally understood what it means to be a harvester. Because I’m scared my allergies will get the best of me if I go out to the fields in October, and pick all kinds of apples and corn.
Maybe I’m afraid to be a harvester because it’s easier to lug around empty baskets–begging other people for a pear or banana every now and then–than it is to go out and pick the fruit, wash it, cook it, and set the table. Maybe even share it with others! With a plentiful supply of food, you risk having friends and family (and of course strangers) steal from you. You take on all the complexities that come with being a “harvester.”
Maybe it’s the burdensome responsibilities that come with the job of being a harvester that has me wishing that my name meant something else, like “borrower.” Now that would be easy. No heavy baskets to hull back to the fort. No expectations from anyone–you know, as long you return whatever it was that you were borrowing.
I think that in order to be a satisfied, content harvester, a person must to be comfortable with happiness. And I’m realizing that as much as I crave happiness, I’m scared of it.
“You’ve found another self-help book,” you, God, are saying right now. Yes, I have. I stay away from that aisle in the bookstore, I swear. But the guardian angel that you hooked me up with sends them … signed by the author. And so, I start reading … and the thought process begins, as I stare, once again, at my navel.
This one is good. It’s called “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” by Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., who teaches the most popular course at Harvard, with more than 850 students.
His fourth meditation, toward the back of the book, is about “letting our light shine.”
“Why would anyone actively deprive himself of happiness?” Ben-Shahar asks. And then he quotes this passage from Marianne Williamson’s bestselling book, “A Return to Love”:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
That, I think, is what it means to be a harvester: to be comfortable with your light. So cozy that you automatically and effortlessly share it with others.
A friend of mine for Christmas one year gave me an original leaf from a medieval manuscript Book of Hours, 16 lines of ruled text, ruled in red, written in Latin with dark brown ink in gothic script on animal vellum. Two lines begin the Magnificat …
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden. For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name.
With the beautiful page, my friend wrote that it reminded him of me … because I don’t hide my light, and I project the joy of Mary.
It was one of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever received. And I keep it right next to my computer because it reminds me what it means to be a harvester.
Admittedly, I spend most of my time doubting the gifts that you, God, have given me, and wondering if everything I say and do is self-absorbed. Because somewhere along the way, I got the memo that writing and speaking (and singing) about yourself–even if it’s meant to inspire and help others–is self-serving.
I so often fall into the trap of thinking that mental illness is a disease for the rich folks who don’t have “real” problems: poverty, dirty water, corrupt governments. And I ask myself, just as Marianne Williamson so intuitively pointed out, “Who am I to try to share the light of God? Who am I to share my gifts? Who am I to try to be happy?”
And so I retreat and head back to the dark spots, where I’m used to hanging out. But the baskets of apples I picked in the field can thrive there. So I have to make a choice: do I head for the light? Where I’m most vulnerable? Where people can steal from me, and call me “self-absorbed” and other bad names? Do I strive for happiness? Or do I pull the comforter over in me in my dark bedroom–and throw away the baskets of goodies that I don’t deserve because no one should be happy in this life?
Do I become a harvester? Or do I stay a borrower?
Help me make the right choice.
Just for today.