Taking the Plunge…

I thought I would enjoy it this time around. Last time it took forever and my car broke down on a couple occasions, but this time seemed to be filled with so much positive that I wouldn’t ever see the negative. New city, people, places, and coffee shops – what could possibly be bad? Alas, my opinion has not changed.

Moving sucks.

Beyond small cuts and bruises from moving stuff around, frequent sneeze attacks because you haven’t dusted since the last time you moved, and never-ending moments of nostalgia as you rummage through all your old stuff, there is this looming question of whether it’s worth it or not – as in, is it worth the increase of student loan debt? Is it worth the hassle and frustration of finding an apartment? And is it worth leaving such a valuable community – such a close family – in Eugene?

These are the things going through my mind as I continue to sift out the stuff I no longer need and condense the things I want to keep. I’m still a couple weeks away from making the actual move to Portland (well, hopefully a couple weeks, but that’s another issue) and what I’m finding thus far is that despite being busy with two jobs, I have a lot of time to think and rethink my decision. It’s rather freezing.

What I mean is, all my second-guessing and wrestling with doubt has left me stalled – kind of like my old Lumina at the Kiefer-Mazda dealership a couple weeks ago. It’s like my heart’s telling me to go, but my mind is holding things up – leaving me idle in the driveway. No, I’m not taking my decision back; I’m simply starting to feel the pressure of all the responsibilities I’ve just lumped onto my shoulders. I’ll be in a new apartment in a new city at a new school with a new car, a new job, and new roommates. The “new” is almost overwhelming.

Some questions that come to mind when reflecting over all that is about to change are: If it’s so stressful, why not drop it? If it’s causing me anxiety and doubt and fear and if I’m beginning to lose sleep over it, why not let it go? Why not continue on with what I’m doing now and live a happy life? It’s certainly an attractive idea with all that I need to take care of in the coming weeks.

And yet…

I feel as though I’d be doing worse by not going. It’d be like buying tickets to a baseball game you’ve wanted to go to and then not going because you don’t want to deal with all the people, parking lots, and other frustrations along the way. I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to pursue a higher education – even higher than the education I’ve already received – and not to take it might mean never receiving it again. Sure, I could always buy baseball tickets at another time. But what if I were to marry, have kids, take up a new job, and get so caught up with life that I never even get a chance to think about it again?

Even if that weren’t the case – the notion of being caught up in the “busy-ness” of life – there’s a greater issue at stake. It’s one that involves purpose and this word “calling.” I don’t use that word often because I think it gets overused and even misused. And yet when I consider what’s driving me to study Scripture at a much more in-depth level – and actually thrust myself into such a spiritually-transforming experience that is seminary – I find no other word that fits more perfectly. But what does the word mean?

The Holman Bible Dictionary defines “call” or “calling” as a “Term often used of one being called by God to salvation and service,” (253). What does that really mean? It’s God’s fault.

In a way, I’m kidding, but in another way, I’m not.

“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out,” – Proverbs 25:2

When I read Scripture, there are so many things that come to mind – so many questions that not too many average congregants could answer. Like, when did Christianity become Christianity and why? Or when did people start treating the extra-biblical letters of Paul, Peter, and others as “Scripture” (and yes, they were extra-biblical at the time they were written)? And if there are so many translations of the Bible, then why aren’t more people learning Greek and Hebrew?

Seeking out the answers to questions like these is the “things” that are concealed by God. Now, I’m not a king, but I know that it would be glorifying to God to search those “things” out. He wants us to ask, He wants us to pursue, and He wants us to be engaged in the life He created. To do anything less than that is not to do anything glorifying to Him.

Taking the plunge to seminary, then, is worth all the packing, moving, and shouldering of responsibilities. It’s worth undergoing all the pressure of higher academic standards and being more studious than I ever was before. And yes, it’s even worth the deeper student loan debt (though I will be seeking more ways to cut those down as much as possible). It is worth all of those things because I, for the glory of God, am seeking out the things that He has concealed in His glory – so that I might be able to glorify Him in every way.

Yes, I’m nervous. I’ve never been so greatly challenged on so many levels. And yet, I’ve never had this opportunity before, which means I must take it head on and become fully immersed. If I try to remain standing where I am, I’ll never find out if I’m capable of the task.

You cannot learn to swim while standing on the shore.

God bless.

Exhaustion by Full Engagement…

Between Friday and Saturday I worked nearly 24 hours (22 1/2 to be exact). When I woke up Sunday morning for church, it took every bit of will power not to go back to sleep (well, will power and knowing that someone was getting pranked by chocolate-covered meatballs tossed in powdered sugar – I’ll explain later). All throughout the morning I was flat-out exhausted.

In all honesty, I like those days. Working eight, nine, or even twelve hours in a single day gives me some weird sense of joy and accomplishment. When I was thinking about it on Sunday morning, though, I didn’t really understand why I was so tired. Sure, I was clocked in for a long time Friday and Saturday, but the actual amount of time that I worked was about two-thirds of the time I was clocked in. It simply didn’t feel like I did very much. And then my pastor, Scott Lamb, told me why.

“It was because you were fully engaged for that time.”

Why did this stick with me? Because deep down, mixed in with the desire to go back to school, is the desire to work. I know, who actually wants to work? Work is lame. You have to, like, work and stuff. Yet every time I envision where I am in twenty years or what I’d like to be doing, I picture ten and twelve hour days. I picture myself coming home being almost completely drained. Yet, the more I think about it, I don’t want a job or a career. I simply want something in which I am fully engaged.

Minutes after my chat with Scott, he gave a message out of John 1, talking about how Jesus became fully human and yet was fully God (still a difficult concept to grasp). “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” (1:14a, NIV). There was no part of being human that Jesus did not experience. Toothaches, stomachaches, heart breaks, hunger, thirst, loneliness, betrayal – you name a basic human emotion or physical feeling and He probably felt it, “yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV). In other words, in Jesus, God was fully engaged with humanity, yet fully Himself.

A show that I have recently been in love with is The West Wing. I know it’s fiction and I know it’s a very sugar-coated style of politics, but I freaking love it. Why? Because throughout the average day of anyone in the West wing of the White House, there is never not something going on. Meeting after meeting, speech after speech, crisis after crisis – President Bartlett and his staff always have something to tackle. “What’s next?” is President Bartlett’s go-to phrase. Every day that they show up to work, they have to be fully engaged. Otherwise they won’t be able to do their job.

Why should it be any different for me? Or for you? Or for anyone who dares to follow God to the places and people He’s calling them? Why should our purpose be pushing the cruise control button and sitting back to relax? Sure, most days are kind of boring, but that should never be an excuse not to be fully engaged with what we’re doing. And yes, I have used that excuse before; I’m not calling anyone else out except for me.

Josh Lyman, a character on The West Wing, said something during the first season that I’ve since found challenging, “The White House can affect more change in a single day than the average person can in their entire lifetime.” When it comes to living God’s kingdom and making earth “as it is in heaven,” shouldn’t the Church (the global body of Christ) be the ones saying that? Shouldn’t we be able to affect more change in a single day by the power vested in us – the Holy Spirit – than someone without Christ can in their entire lifetime?

No, I’m not saying you’re doing things wrong if you aren’t making big changes at a rapid rate. One element to the way God brings about change in someone’s life is time. He is incredibly patient and I am incredibly stubborn – having taken years and years to understand very simple truths, like loving my neighbor and regarding others as better than myself. God is all about the long-term growth, the kind that perseveres trials and tribulations. Sure, He gets excited when someone suddenly comes to Him, but only because He can begin His long-term plan with that person. What that long-term plan requires, though, is our full engagement.

Being fully engaged is at the core of being Christian. We’re supposed to be tuned in when our coworkers, friends, and spouses vent their frustrations and anxieties. We’re supposed to have the heart and mind of Christ when someone wrongs or hurts us – even when they try to blow us or others to pieces at a marathon. And we’re supposed to have the compassion of God for others as He has had for us. Being awoken to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to the presence of the Lord God should be reason enough to be fully engaged with the world around us.

No, I’m not saying everyone should work themselves for the Lord until they’re completely exhausted. I’m simply saying we ought to be ready in season and out of season to share the good news of God – that there’s something better waiting for us than the greatest things of this world. God’s got something up His sleeve and He wants us to be a part of it. All we have to do is submit our whole selves to Him. We have to be fully engaged.

“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these,'” – Mark 12:29-31

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whomever you’re with, fully engage yourself.

God bless.

Discerning God’s Whispers…

In the last few weeks, I’ve been working quite a bit on a couple seminary applications as well as submitting a few job applications. One thought that continues to pop up is where I’m going with all of it – what my goal in life is and how this job or program would assist in achieving that goal. Honestly, it’s been a little stressful. Although I have a decent idea of who I’d like to be, what I’d like to be doing, and where I’d like to be living in five years from now, I don’t actually have a clear and specific goal attached with a five-year layout of how to achieve it. No, the questions on the applications are fairly vague, so they aren’t really asking for anything specific. But when they ask what my goals in life are, all I can really hear is what our society seems to expect of us: When, where, and how are you going to be a success story?

Even within the church (in this Westernized society), we hear elders, teachers, and pastors saying that we should have a college degree by 22 and a full-time job by 22 and a half. And we’re supposed to be married by 23 or sooner with maybe a kid or two on the way. But what came to mind this morning was Jesus’ career – how it began, how it ended, and what happened along the way. He enters the spotlight, as many in our day might expect from a young prodigy, a gun-slinger; resisting the temptations of Satan (or “the satan”), teaching in the synagogues, healing people, beating back the religious elite with an impeccable prowess in argumentation (also known as “lawyering”; see also, “lawyered”***), and kissing little babies along the way. But Luke 3:23 points out something that often goes overlooked; “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age.” Not 22, 23, nor even 25; He was 30.

If Jesus didn’t begin to live His own independent life (separate from his parents) until He was thirty, why are we in such a rush today? Sure, we don’t want to deliberate in doing something for so long that it never gets done. Part of my decision to head back to school this year was because I didn’t want to get stuck in a season of life that was intended to only that: a season. But just because we know we don’t want to wait too long doesn’t mean the right thing to do is to rush into the next phase. When, then, are we supposed to go? When are we supposed to make the move into the next phase?

Answer: When God says it’s time.

I know that’s a very vague answer. But, in my experience, God doesn’t really give a clear answer. And why is that? I believe it’s because God wants us to constantly seek Him, to constantly search Him, and to constantly discern what it is that He wants us to do. If we’re making moves on our own without searching God, then are we actually doing what God had for us? An example comes from my pastor, Scott. He and his family moved down here to Eugene to plant and grow a church. Somewhere along the way in the first few months he was here, Scott landed a job at the New Hope Bible College. And yet, he ended up leaving the job because, as he told us, it was more for his own personal security – not necessarily something God wanted him to do. It was his discernment – his seeking the Lord for an answer – that led him to his decision to leave.

When I say that God doesn’t really give us a clear answer, I mean that He doesn’t do so if we aren’t truly seeking Him for an answer. If we’re asking God if something is the right thing to do after we’ve already done it, then we’re not practicing discernment. Scott left his job only after he started seeking the Lord about it – not after he quit and asked God sometime later while he was picking up groceries.

I’ve been out of college for almost two years now and throughout the entire time I’ve been considering and reconsidering seminary. I did not want to wait this long to decide. When I graduated college, I wanted to have things lined up – I wanted to have the security of knowing where I was going. But God wanted me to do something else. He wanted me to wait on Him; He wanted me to find security in Him, not in the comfort of my own plans. What does that security look like? Even though I’ve decided to apply to seminary this year, I may not get in. Or I may land a full-time job that would help pay off some of my student loans and save up for grad school at a later time. I don’t know, but I’m no longer worried by what I don’t know. That’s what security in the Lord looks like.

No, I’m not going to pretend that I’ve always been here. My closest friends and pastors know that I’ve had many worries and insecurities throughout this long season of discernment. I’m also not going to pretend that I’m always going to feel comfortable about where I am; but I can guarantee that as long as I’m covered in the dust of Rabbi Jesus, I will be content and secure, regardless of what temporary emotions may come my way.

Don’t let the shouts of the world about what you should do, where you should go, or who you should be drown out the whispers of God.

God bless.

 

***Slang; not actual words: “lawyered” verb, past tense of “to lawyer”; to defeat someone in argumentation.

Starting With God…

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went to a desolate place, and there he prayed,” – Mark 1:35

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve had a pretty consistent, early-morning schedule for work – with this past week being an exception. And although I’ve moved around Eugene a couple times, my morning routine has remained relatively the same: Get up, eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, hop in the shower, get dressed, pour more coffee into a travel mug and then head off to work. If I’m paying attention, it only takes me half an hour or forty minutes to do all that. But on several occasions in the past month or so, I’ve added something to that routine. I’ve added God.

One morning I woke up around 5:30 and could not go back to sleep. So I simply got up and went about my routine. When I was ready to off to work – a solid hour and fifteen minutes early – I decided I’d read a chapter of Proverbs. And when I flew through that, I read a chapter from John’s Gospel. When I still had extra time, I jotted down a few notes for blog outlines and set a small to-do list for when I was off of work. When it came time to head out the door, not only did I feel more productive, I felt more awake.

Yes, the coffee helped. But coffee doesn’t make you more aware of spiritual realities in a material world. God does. And when you start with reading Scripture – and actually paying attention to what you’re reading – and praying, you set your mind onto more important things. Your mindset becomes that of someone dwelling in a different kingdom. You begin saying kinder things to your coworkers, literally helping your neighbors “just because,” or even sending quick messages to friends and family members reminding them that you care about them – nothing dramatic, but yet powerful.

If you think about all the things you do for your morning routine, there’s always a purpose for each one. I eat breakfast so I have energy to go about the day. I drink coffee so that I have even more energy to go about the day. And I shower, brush my teeth, and get dressed so that working with me is more enjoyable (or at least less miserable?). Why do all these things matter? They matter because I value my job, my involvement with my surrounding communities, and what kind of reputation and legacy I’m leaving behind. But what matters more?

Paul tells us to do everything for the glory of God. That means even the menial work we do at our jobs. No, God doesn’t want me to sell more Duck gear; but He does want me to interact with my coworkers (and customers) in a manner that reflects Him. In order to do that, though, I must practice acting like Him. Wouldn’t it be helpful, then, if I started my day with Him?

I don’t think it matters how much of our mornings we spend with God, but rather that we spend time with Him. God is extremely personal and relational. His desire is to know us and for us to know Him. Working jobs, serving our communities, and whatever else we do all come as a by-product of seeking Him. If the routines to start our day don’t include Him, then we’re less likely to act like Him.

I’d like to advise certain ways of seeking Him like praying in the shower or on the drive to work, but frankly, those only work for certain people at certain points. I used to pray on the drive to work, but it’s become exceedingly difficult because there are other cars that through off my focus – kind of like how they interrupt those phone calls or text conversations (sarcasm). And praying the shower can amp up the water usage and takes away hot water for roommates (sorry Mikey), so that’s not the best route, either. All I recommend is find a time at the start of your day to find God.

Doesn’t need to be twenty minutes or a half hour; just long enough that you feel Him surround you. And it does need to be focused so if reading Scripture on your phone or tablet becomes too much of a distraction, then turn them off or simply read from your paperback Bible (I know, old school). Even if all you can muster is a mere two minutes, it’d be worth it.

God bless.

Working Beyond a Job…

I’ve been getting restless lately. Every day that I show up to work, do my job, and then come home to read or write or really anything that I’d rather do, I get a little more eager for something more meaningful. Don’t get me wrong; I have a pretty fun job. It’s oftentimes stressful and busy, but it’s fun. What I find to be the one problem, though, is that it isn’t what I want to do in life.

Ever since the spring term of freshman year, I’ve wanted to write. “But… you’ve been writing. You’re writing right now,” you might say. And yeah, you’d be right; I am writing right now. But I know that when I’m done with this blog and it’s posted for all of my eight million readers to read (okay, maybe it’s only eight), I won’t get paid for it. And even if I did, I know it wouldn’t be enough to live off of.

Have you ever come across those people who often say, “I’m doing what I love and getting paid for it”? I envy them. I very much wish I could quit the day job, open my laptop, write until my fingernails explode, and relax later that night knowing I had a paycheck coming from the day’s work. I’d be at my desk all day in a sweater and khakis, sipping three or four cups of home-brewed coffee, and listening to the “Smooth Jazz” station on Pandora. Yeah… that’d be cool.

Unfortunately, my life isn’t like that – at least, not right now. Like most employed people, I’ve got to show up to work, clock in, do a bunch of menial tasks that no kid ever aspires to do, and come home in the afternoon/early evening. It’s a blessing and a curse; it pays the bills, but kind of saps the soul.

What I’ve been wondering lately, though, is what if I’ve got this whole working-to-make-a-living thing all wrong? What if, instead, I was supposed to work regardless of pay? What if life is supposed to be one giant unpaid internship where you work a bunch of hours just to say you did a lot of busy work? What if, as the Scriptures suggest, we’re all supposed to be indentured servants for something much bigger than our “real life” jobs?

I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase “Time is money” at some point in their life. It’s hard to grow up in America without hearing it from someone even if you’ve never had a job. It’s kind of confusing in the Christian perspective, though. Jesus teaches that money and possessions are temporal things at best and God is described as living before time began. If it’s God’s kingdom we’re to spend eternity in, then it stands to reason that neither time nor money will have any affect on our eternal souls.

“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” Jesus says, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:20). Whatever it is that we’re earning (if we’re even “earning” it), it’s going to outlast this world. And as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with anything material, but rather something internal and eternal.

I raise this whole issue because in America, we’re too focused on making money. Yes, I have a lot of student loan debt and no, I’m not really working a job that will pay that off any time soon. But that does not define my life. When God looks at me, He doesn’t see a large number in red font with a dollar sign at the front; He sees a bit of Himself coming to life. He knows it is far from complete, but He knows that it’s growing. And He knows that no matter how much student loan debt I may wrack up, it won’t remove Himself from me.

Why then do we work? Because it’s not for money, a President, a social status, or even a spouse that we work; we work for God and everyone else thereafter. We work because God has called each of us to a particular, unique task that only our particular, unique selves are capable of handling. It’s not as though His whole plan falls apart if we decide not to do it. He’s certainly capable of doing everything on His own. But, as the entire Bible – which encapsulates a very clear picture of a very involved God – points out, He eagerly wants us to want to be a part of His whole operation. It’s like He’s building one giant jigsaw puzzle and He wants us to help piece things together.

What then should be our attitude toward that job we work 40, 50, or even 70 hours a week? After watching Gladiator for the 142nd time, I caught a line from Maximus’ armor-bearer; “Most times I do what I want to. Other times, I do what I have to.” Just because I work nearly 40 hours every week doesn’t mean I should let my job control my life and direct my passions. Instead, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m working, I have the opportunity to serve God by serving my coworkers and then come home to pursue my passions of reading and writing. The way I see it, I should be working at least 120 hours every week even though I only get paid for 40(ish).

Putting things this way makes it seem rather dreadful – working 120 hours a week and only getting paid for one-third the time?! But if we step back and look at things from God’s perspective, we’ve already been paid in full. We’ve been given a salary called “life” with a bonus called “sanctification.” What we’re doing now is simply whatever God places on our hearts to do. We only have to muster the courage to commit to doing it.

It changes the way I go about my day to day life. Take tonight for instance: Though I have to be at work at 8 am tomorrow, I’m going to be staying up late tonight to read and write some more – because those are my true passions. Like Paul being a leather-worker, my job is a mere way of making an income. It isn’t my life-long vocation. Serving God, however, is.

God bless.

Resting to Grow…

Today was a much needed day of rest. After a late request to a coworker, my usual Sunday night closing shift was covered. You see I’ve had the knack of getting into various streaks of days without rest – without a day off – and I don’t even realize it. It wasn’t until Friday that I had realized I had gone three weeks in a row since my last day off. Needless to say, I was exhausted after last night.

“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist,” – Proverbs 23:4

I used to think this Proverb was in reference to the notion of gaining as much money as one can. I used to think of the rich man in Mark 10:17-22; someone who had kept every rule ever given to him, but also kept every dime given to him. In this day spent watching episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” eating a delicious burrito from Mucho Gusto with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, and watching one of my favorite movies (Finding Forrester), I now realize this Proverb wasn’t talking about getting rich. It is simply talking about Sabbath.

Jesus says that man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather the other way around (Mark 2:27). In His day He taught not to make certain days more holy than others and we’ve sort of followed His lead as a Christian culture. But what I’ve gotten into the bad habit of doing is overlooking the positive thing Jesus says about the Sabbath.

In saying that the Sabbath was made for man, He’s saying that it was God’s intention for His creation to take a rest from his/her work. Oregon law states that for every shift of six hours or more, an employee is required to take a half hour unpaid break for physical rest. With God’s commandment of a Sabbath, however, it’s intended for much more than physical rest; He wants our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls to rest.

Back in my junior year of high school, I was taking a weights class. It was the only one I ever took in high school, but I learned quite a bit from it. For starters, I learned that it isn’t good to work out the same muscle group day after day after day. It’s in fact better to alternate between each muscle group day to day. One day work your upper body and then the next work your lower body. And why was that? In order for our muscles to grow in strength and size, rest – not more exercise – is required. I believe it’s the same for our souls.

Work is forever a part of life. And some of us work far more than others (parents, I hear, work every single day – but I think it’s just a theory…), but no matter who you are or what you do, you work to some degree each day. It’s good for us – healthy, even. But, like taking any one thing too far, we’re not supposed to fill our schedules with jobs and extra hours here and there to make the extra buck. We need to rest. We need days off.

I have often heard the age-old cliché “time is money.” My generation has probably heard this less than the generation before us, but we’ve heard it. And many of us have believed it even if we didn’t consciously acknowledge that belief. It’s used to generate strong work ethics, but there’s a problem: It’s a lie.

Long lives aren’t dependent upon large bank accounts; they’re dependent upon a large faith – even as large as a mustard seed. Food, clothes, housing – you name it; if you need it, God will provide. Money, though useful in the social system we’re in, is not God. It won’t buy you a faithful spouse, a ticket into heaven, or especially a new change in your character. It is simply a means to an end. I use it to buy food, but I can also grow my own. I use it to pay for gas, but I could also ride my bike. And it helps pay for a roof over my head, but who says I wouldn’t be sheltered apart from a lease?

My only point is exactly as the Proverb teaches: We must be discerning enough to say “no” every now and then to those extra hours. We must be wise enough to know that no matter where we are in life, we will always be working and therefore always in need of rest. It helps our muscles, our work ethic, and our walk with God to keep a healthy balance between our jobs and our days off.

God bless.

Wrestling with Restlessness…

Last Wednesday I attended the Spring Career Fair at U of O. It wasn’t because I was desperate for a job; I have two. It wasn’t because I want to make more money, either; I make enough for the time being. I went to the career fair because I am restless.

I love my jobs; they’re fun (most of the time). But what has been kind of bugging me throughout the last few weeks is the fact that when I come home from either of these jobs, I haven’t really done much. Sure, I might make a few customers happy by making them a good pizza or finding the item they were looking for, but beyond that, what’s the draw? What have I accomplished apart from bringing in a paycheck?

In school, I felt like I was doing something meaningful. Yeah, I hated the midterms, papers, and projects, but my constant motivation was the fact that, little by little, I was achieving my undergrad degree. It made those tests all the more critical to excel in. It made the tedious assignments of blog comments and one-page writer’s responses less dreadful. And it gave those research papers a sense of immediacy as I wrote them – as if my entire future depended upon it.

The “real world” is boring. Sure, during football season things get busy at both my jobs. It’s important that we find the missing items in the warehouse. And there’s a great deal of urgency to make those 12 large pizzas on time for that 13th-Birthday party. But finding something and making a few pizzas in a timely matter aren’t really accomplishments. No one puts those things on their resume.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God,” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul has a point: Glorifying God is supposed to be our number one priority no matter where we are or what we’re doing. But then Paul goes on to talk about spiritual gifts two chapters later. He says basically that no matter which gift you have, it’s absolutely vital to the purpose of Christ and His church; “The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (12:22). And just when it looks like there might be a slight message of “just keep doing what you’re doing,” he says this toward the end: “But strive for the greater gifts,” (12:31). So if he actually means what he says when he writes 10:31 and 12:31, then doesn’t it stand to reason that if we aren’t striving for the “greater gifts” we aren’t really glorifying God?

I understand that these chapters in 1 Corinthians are leading up to chapter 13, which is by far the most important thing for any Christian to learn and practice. I’ll get to that. What I’m trying to guard myself against here and now is idleness. No, not idolatry – the worship of false gods; idleness: doing only what needs to be done for the present time in order to have the most relaxation possible.

When Jesus is telling the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), there’s something the master of the house says that really strikes me: “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?’” (20:6). And in the parable of the talents, the master again says something similar: “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant!’” (25:26). To borrow from C.S. Lewis, God is not fond of slackers.

I don’t think I’ve been particularly lazy; I’ve been working a lot over the past seven months. But I can tell you that I have felt terribly restless. I want to do more than show up on time, work hard, work efficiently, and then come home. And it makes me wonder: If I feel that what I’m currently doing is lacking in a deeper spiritual sense, then shouldn’t I do something about it? Doesn’t James say that he who knows what he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins (4:17)? And if I feel that I’m not doing enough, doesn’t it at least suggest that there’s something I’m supposed to be doing?

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing,” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Paul says that without love, whatever we do in this life, on this earth, is meaningless. Or, to put it in the opposite way, love (as described in vv. 4-8a) gives meaning to everything we do – be it playing a professional sport, receiving a third PhD., or making a pizza for someone just the way they like it. But what Jesus reveals in his parable of the talents is that we’re supposed to do more than the bare minimum. We’re supposed to keep striving, to keep climbing, and to keep pushing ourselves not to our fullest potential to glorify ourselves, but to our fullest potential to glorify God in all ways possible. From this point all that remains for me (or anyone in a similar boat as me) is to choose to start pushing.

A new job won’t be the fix to my restlessness. But refusing to try for a new job might be even worse. In a pickle like this it’s best to figure out which way is the most difficult. It’s probably the way I’m supposed to be taking.

God bless.