Jan 18 2011

Mindfulness

This stained glass window appears in the entrance of Spurgeon’s College in London. The words Et Teneo Et Teneor mean I hold, and am held. I first saw it in 2006 when I was visiting England and Scotland. It’s a beautiful statement about our state as people of faith. While we are mindful of our need for compassion and guidance, so Christ already has been mindful of us.

At a recent CAYA (Come As You Are) worship service, the casual worship atmosphere offered by Decatur First United Methodist Church, the offertory song was titled Less Like Scars. Originally recorded by Sara Groves, this song is an emotional outpouring about what it means to hold and to be held. The words of the chorus express:

And I feel you here
And you’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

Powerful and remarkable words. Forever faithful and able - two descriptors for Jesus the Christ. To be mindful of Christ means to have felt sustained, lifted up, protected, safe, and empowered. The actions of Christ are not reflected in the scars from being nailed to the cross. The actions of Christ are reflected in his character. To me, character means how you are mindful. How do your actions and words reflect your character? All of these things originate within the deep recesses of our brains, where the intricate patterns of the network of our brains flash and ignite our thoughts and imagination. For most of us, these deep recesses cause us to think more about ourselves. This is human nature. This is the natural way of how we think. So, my question now is, how was Christ mindful? He thought of serving everyone except himself – he was the least of his worries.

It may not seem like a new concept, but it is. It’s a concept that gets communicated, but we never truly live it out. One of the most important parts of the Christian faith is our genuine concern for the other. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. To love is to be mindful. Although I grew up a Christian, I was never in church (outside of Vacation Bible School as a young child). I did not truly dedicate my life to Christ until I was 17, at the same time I was baptized. It was a remarkable moment in my life. I say that because of a group of friends that were mindful of me. If it was not for their persistence in telling me about their faith journeys and struggles, the community and support they found in a church family, and the personal transformation they had experienced, I would have never found myself. Because Christ was mindful of us, we can discover who we truly are. Because my friends were mindful of me, and were acting as the hands and feet of Christ, not only did I find myself, but I found Christ. He did not rise and conquer the grave for just any reason or to prove his identity. Christ rose for us. Christ conquered the grave so that we might have life. Christ was, quite simply, being mindful of us.

At Candler, I have found an atmosphere that is mindful of the other. Whether it is participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Project with Emory University and local communities, holding a chili cook-off fundraiser to raise money for the ongoing Haiti relief efforts, being in conversation about issues facing the future of the church with people of different perspective, or helping create a community garden for a local congregation, Candler illustrates how vital it is to be in service to one another. Through the opportunities that Candler offers, both in and out of the classroom, I have been able to recall the moment that I found myself – and build on it.

Candler has helped me to dig deeper – offering me the possibility and freedom to identify my own voice and celebrate my own path of spiritual growth. Over the last three years at Candler I have realized it is okay to be journeying into the unknown, following all the twists and turns. After all, it is our journey that gives us experience and our experiences that shape who we are and what we are to do in this life. I am grateful that Candler has not only shown me how to be truly mindful of the other, but along the way finding myself.

-Mark Batten

Mark is currently the Coordinator of Admissions Services at Candler. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity part-time. His areas of interest include liturgical formation, the spiritual disciplines, and creation care. Away from the office and class, Mark enjoys kayaking and piloting the latest tech gadgets.