The will of God for us is to do the work that lies in front of us.
Another seminary semester is drawing to a close, and it has been beyond fruitful. I have grown spiritually in the past four months perhaps more significantly than I’ve grown over the past four years. My private journal entries belie this in shocking, colorful fashion–the swears and tears, scribbles and scratches, all testimony to a soul undergoing continued transformation. I wouldn’t say there was a single pivotal moment, but rather a series of themes that found their way woven throughout the semester–leitmotifs, if you will, whose subtle recurrences pointed me in the direction and sent me along the path of the risen Lord.
To attempt to encapsulate them all in one blog post is futile, but I want to take some time to write my way through them as I process them. I have the added benefit of getting to see these themes come to life in short order as I begin field placement next week.
The one theme with which I want to begin my chain of reflections is the theme of the will of God–specifically, the finding and doing thereof. One of the wisest voices at the seminary is a godly woman named Marilyn Elliott (in my opinion, she should be the seminary president, but that is for another post). At a daily mass a few weeks ago her homily stressed the sentence that began this post: the will of God of for us to do the task that lies right in front of us.
Marilyn told a story about a trip she and some friends took to hear wisdom from another wise and godly woman, expecting to hear something earth-shaking. Instead, they were told the exact same thing that Marilyn told us in her homily. And it was a let down.
So often–and this is the peculiar curse of seminarians and those preparing for ministry–we become awash in dreams of grandeur. We want to do “a great thing” for God, whether that is missionary work in Africa or feeding the hungry masses or fighting for equality or so forth. Is very easy to become intoxicated with one’s own dreams and put words in God’s mouth, calling our ideas his “will.”
But this isn’t how Jesus worked. Remember that wonderful chapter in Mark’s gospel: when Jesus worked, he paid attention to that which was right in front of him–a bleeding woman, a little girl, the “hidden ones” of society. But the bleeding woman realizes that when Jesus looks at her, she is no longer hidden. She is no longer an anonymous body in the crowd of people pressing in around him. Because Jesus paid attention to her, her face and her identity were revealed to the world through him. She was made whole in body, spirit, and society.
And Jesus didn’t start that day off thinking about healing the sick and raising the dead, I suspect. No; he simply went about his day and did precisely the task that was in front of him. He had no seminarian aspirations. He simply did what happened to him.
Can we as Christian leaders do what happens to us? Or is our vision so clouded with our stupid dreams that we baptize and call “the Lord’s work” that we don’t see the task that’s right in front of us?
Guilty as charged, my journal reminds me.