This interesting question came from Jordan Seng’s blog this morning. He is a pastor in Hawaii many of us know and appreciate from his time here in Boston. (His book, Miracle Work, is like a behind-the-scenes explanation of the theological underpinnings of the faith life I found when I first came to church here in Cambridge, as most of the friends I met were influenced and taught by Jordan and his wife Sonya during their time here. If you liked my first book, you’ll like Jordan’s. It’s a great read.)
In this blog, Jordan describes realizing that, based on a single article he wrote about praying for a friend’s child to be raised from the dead, his academic career was over. He was now defined (based on the power of Google) not as a scholar, but as someone who did wacky things for God.
He asks: How can you settle the question of what defines you? What thing would you have to let go of? What sort of life would you have to pick up?
As I consider this, I’m reminded of another book I just read, Searching for God at Ground Zero, by Father James Martin, S.J. In it, he describes pushing past his fear and dread to show up each day at the cleanup site from the Towers, to listen and pray with anyone who needed him.
As I reflect on these books and think back over different seasons of my life when I felt like I “got it right,” I realize that I want to be defined as someone who shows up where she’s needed, and does what needs to be done. Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, physically… whatever. I’m not even sure I want to do miracles, although it would be cool to witness them, of course. But my real dream is to rise to whatever occasion God plops me down in, and to trust that He’ll give me what I need to do what needs to be done.
Obviously, there are places where this will be easy – where what is needed is something I have some aptitude for. We spend our lives looking for these sweet spots, where “the world’s great need meets [our] great passion.” But I want to be willing to stretch, too. One of the things I love about the life of faith is that new things are still expected from you in mid and later life. I’m not sure how well this is lived out in many evangelical churches today, but it’s something I’m praying about, a place I think we can do better. A place I can do better.
Jordan’s blog helped me remember that one goal of faith is to live a life defined by God, a life that makes no sense unless Jesus is real.
But I’ll confess: that sounds exhausting right now. Part of me would rather hunker down with kitchen countertop samples and pretend that material stuff is REALLY SUPER IMPORTANT. But it isn’t. Abundant life is about more than tasteful home decor. Thank God.
So this morning, I’m praying (tentatively) asking God to define my life.
And as I do, I imagine myself writing an admiring companion book to Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow.Only mine will be called, Yikes, Eek, Pow.
But if God writes the book, it’s the story I want to be part of.