Daily Reflection
April 22nd, 2008

Brian Kokensparger

Arts & Sciences
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“Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

It’s an old girls’ slumber party game. In one version, one of the girls lays down with the others kneeling around her. Each of the others puts one finger from each hand under her. They chant the magic line (above), and the girl miraculously rises from the floor, lifted only by single fingers.

Though there is a perfectly natural explanation – the fact that an index finger can lift almost as much weight as the entire hand – I was reminded of this game when I read the first reading. Paul had been stoned and dragged out of the city, “supposing that he was dead.”

But then, a miraculous thing happened. “But when the disciples gathered around him, he got up and entered the city.” Not only was he not dead, but the next day he was well enough to travel.
“Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”

Paul was all but dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, they lifted him up; they brought him back to life.

Twenty four years ago, to this day, my only older brother died suddenly and unexpectedly from an undiagnosed brain tumor. He was twenty-five. I was on a retreat team at the time, giving two retreats a week to high school students in Cincinnati. The funeral, the casseroles, the family members I had not seen for years – they were all a blur. All I wanted to do was get back to the retreat center and get back to work. I pictured my retreat teammates doing double-duty, struggling to keep up the grueling pace. I felt like I was letting them down.

When I returned, everyone urged me to take some time off. Instead, I jumped back in and got back to work.

To my teammates, I wanted to be “light as a feather.” I wanted my burden to be mine alone. I did not want it to affect them at all.

As it turned out, I was “stiff as a board.” I did not – could not – grieve. I could not receive sympathy. I could not allow my teammates to lift me up.

So I think today’s first reading is a call to me – a call to let those around me lift me up when I need it. And unlike I might have been inclined to do in the past, I share this burden with you, Gentle Reader. Your kind responses to me, and to the other authors of the Daily Reflection, have lifted me up, have given me life. And though what I do is called a ministry, I believe that what you do – your careful reading, your own self-reflection on the readings and the writings, and your occasional heartfelt response (especially to those whom you touch in your daily life) – is a ministry equal to any other.

So today, let’s see if there are others around us who need lifted up. And more importantly for some of us (myself included), let’s recognize when we need lifted up, and allow those around us to practice their ministry.

We don’t need a slumber party to bring these little miracles about. We just need each other: A community of believers focused on the Kingdom of God.

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