Becoming Stewards of Life

A reflection from the Reverend Eric Long

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” –Genesis 2:15

The day before Hurricane Florence hit, a parishioner came into my office, someone who owns property directly in the path of the storm. One would think she would be consumed with worry about her vacation home. Instead, I had to bring it up, after which she waved it off with indifference. Many would be shocked at such a reaction, unless they knew the family tragedy she had just suffered. Then, it made complete sense. Her grief demanded everything be given to the stewardship of her first priority: her family.

The calendar says it’s fall, which means it’s also our parish stewardship season. As others anticipate the beginning of school and the changing of leaves, I annually strategize how to call us to the stewardship of our parish community.

Too often, this is the only time we consider what stewardship means. Yet this year, while considering the many families who have suffered unexpected and tragic losses, when observing the environmental calamity of this hurricane season and all that is so easily swept away, I find that my sense of what it means to be a steward is a great deal larger than simply making a budget to pay the electric bill.

Such reflection comes at a good time for the Long household, as both of our daughters recently started new seasons of life. Madalene just began middle school, and Abigail, high school. I don’t think of myself as the father of a child in high school. I think of myself as younger than late middle — age — my gut tells me I should still have little girls at home. Reality, nonetheless, persists.

The stakes seem higher now, not just for my daughters, but for my parenting of them. The world that they’re inheriting, the culture along with it, not to mention the creation that they and their children will enjoy — or endure — all weigh on me. In light of it all, stewardship doesn’t feel like a once-a-year task to complete, but rather — properly — a call to care for every sphere of life, particularly those that are most precious, and fragile.
Each of the myriad ways I am a steward (as rector of this church, as a parent of two daughters, of my relationships, of creation), comes by way of gift. God has entrusted to me so many things not of my own creating. For each, God’s mandate is clear: be a blessing to all that I have blessed you with. My initial response is gratitude.
But it is also easy to feel fear, given the fragility of everything I hold dear. But I refuse to practice a stewardship of fear. I see with clarity that all things are precious, though not all equal priority in the here and now.

Those who suffer loss know these lessons best. They have much to teach us about the need to identify what truly matters and to be a steward first to those. This fall, I intend to learn from them.

Stewardship season reminds us that we are not stewards for just a season, but at all times. We must be stewards of life.

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