Last night I watched a video by Rob Bell. It was a live-stream thing initially (I, of course, watched the replay) and I’m not exactly sure what to call it. At points it felt like a sermon, but then at other points it felt like a stand-up gig. I think he was supposed to simply say what he was up to nowadays, but he seemed to just talk. About whatever.
Whatever it was, I liked it. I know Rob Bell has been called many mean things in many Christian circles, but I enjoyed what he had to say last night. He talked about how he had transitioned from thing to thing (writing books, starting a church, shooting videos, etc.) and said that his reasoning for moving to L.A. was because the next thing he’s doing is there. I don’t know what that “thing” is, but I do know that I can learn from his example.
What is his example? Feeling called by God to a task and simply obeying that call.
If you don’t know much about Bell, he’s more of an artsy kind of guy – at least he tries to be. He believes that God has called us to create, invent, and imagine. He doesn’t call us to check off where we agree about beliefs and doctrines. God calls us to something beyond.
I’m not too familiar with most of Bell’s books, but I know I agree with him about what God has called us to do. I know that there is something more to my life than careers, student loans, doctrines, dogmas, retirement plans, mortgages, car payments, and insurance policies. I know there are certain tasks we’re meant to accomplish – regardless of whether or not we get paid to do them.
Bell’s words were still rattling around my head as I was reading Matthew 20 today. In the first 16 verses, Jesus gives a parable of laborers in a vineyard and a master of that vineyard who pays their wages. Each worker started at a different hour, but they all received the same wage. What caught my attention while reading this passage was how the master of the vineyard found the laborers before they started working for him.
“And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us,’” – Matthew 20:6-7
According to the ESV footnote, “the eleventh hour” was near the end of the work day. I have to imagine that with as poor as ancient Jews were back then, skipping a day of work might have meant not eating their next meal. Instead of calling it quits after noon had past, these workers were so desperate for wages that they almost waited the entire day. And as it turned out, it wasn’t too late to work.
In light of what Bell had to say last night, I’m led to believe that if there is still breath in our lungs and a beat in our hearts it is not too late to answer God’s call. It isn’t too late to complete the task God has for you.
Quite understandably, we run right into the question of “What is that task”? I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out my own task or what it is God wants me to do. So far, I haven’t gotten much of an answer. I’m starting to think I’m not supposed to receive an answer.
If there was a clear and definite answer – if God called to me from heaven to say, “Jeremy, I want you to write a book,” then there wouldn’t be much uncertainty. And when there isn’t much uncertainty – when things are in our control – are we really alive? Rob Bell said that when he began Mars Hill in Michigan, he always had a small sense of fear about the way things were going, but he also said he felt alive.
“I remember the days when you said you weren’t afraid to die/ I don’t think you’re brave for it/ I just think you’re more afraid of being alive,” – John Mark McMillan, “The Medicine”
Bell’s whole point – if I could narrow it down to one thing – was that if there is not something we’re risking, if we aren’t in some way nervous about what’s going to happen, then we aren’t really alive with our faith.
In Philippians 2:12, Paul says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There is a strong connotation of reverence in this verse – a deep reverence to God. But what if it’s also something like Bell talked about? What if Paul was encouraging the Philippians to risk a little for the sake of God? What if Paul recognized the only way to be truly alive was to surrender every comfort of our own?
As I’ve talked about in previous posts, I have intended to risk a little and throw myself into my passions a little more (reading, writing, and even golf). To be honest, I haven’t really done that yet. I’ve grown accustomed to the cycle of day to day routines, which include TV watching and online browsing. Most of the time, neither of those things has any other purpose except for boredom.
Hearing Rob Bell’s words last night was incredibly encouraging – or rather, re-encouraging. I still don’t know what my task is, but I know what I have now and what I’m passionate about now. I’ll start there, risking a gamble on God, and see what happens. In the mean time, I thought I’d ask you all a question that you might have been avoiding: What aren’t you doing that you once dreamed you’d be doing? Again, I’m not talking about careers and jobs and all that jazz; I’m talking about which passions are you cultivating as your work your full time or part time job? Or, like me, have you hung them all up for a little TV time here and a little Facebook time there?
It’s not too late to give it a try. A Twitter account I follow oftentimes posts a tweet that reads something like this; “Even though you’re running slow and not very far, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”
Give it a shot… especially if you’ve got something to lose.