“I just wish God would call me to Africa or something.” I can’t tell you how many times my longsuffering parents have heard these words (and similar laments) since May 2010. Graduation day may as well have been a NASA launch, and most of my friends left campus on one of two shuttles: hurtling towards the altar, or catapulting themselves into some fabulous career or self-sacrificial overseas experience. Me? I felt like the title of a Matthew McConaughey movie.
I quickly realized that life was not really perfect for everyone else, nor was I alone in feeling “in between.” I also did not wander in the barren wasteland of unemployment for long. I assumed the all-around “productive member of society” label shortly thereafter and have worn it ever since. I also feel like I’ve done some good things…church involvement, teaching, working the 8-5 at a missions organization.
But I’ve longed for more.
I don’t mean “more” in the sense of “bigger” or “better” – although, goodness knows it’s easy enough to get the gimmes just after a short stroll, I mean scroll through my Facebook feed. I suppose I mean it in the only-slightly-more-noble sense of greater fulfillment by accomplishing more for the kingdom of God.
I admit, my personal life ideal is the whole wife/mother bit – what awesome, God-given roles and responsibilities. So far, that is not something that God has marked out for me. So as I’ve looked around (again, that comparison game = guilty), I’m afraid that I’ve anguished over a very black-and-white either/or, watching friends either glory in motherhood or live the all-consuming Amy Carmichael life on the mission field. Torn, because my life definitely falls in the very grey, ordinary, average in-between. Guilty, because my choices seem small. Defeated, because business as usual does not feel very grand, noble, or self-sacrificing by comparison.
We live in a culture where success is defined by a longer measuring stick than ever. It’s not a hit YouTube video unless it goes viral with over a million views; it’s not a blockbuster movie unless it makes 500 bajillion dollars at the box office; it’s not a sell-out game unless 150,000 fans show up. Compounded by the fact that “normal” people are now reaching these kinds of numbers through mediums like the internet and reality TV, is it any wonder that we feel that we feel pressured to “do” for God on an equally grand scale?
By decree of the Sunday School material outline, I taught a lesson on the parable of the talents two weeks ago. So it probably took my sleepy-eyed middle schoolers a little by surprise when I ditched the curriculum and somewhat passionately revisited the topic this past Sunday. Together we dug into the sister parable found in Luke 19, the story of the master and the ten minas. The bulk of the story, while relevant, did not hit home as much as two small phrases from the first part of the passage. First, we learn that Jesus told the parable in the first place “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (verse 11). Second, the master in the story instructs his servants to “engage in business until I come” (verse 13).
The most obvious meaning of the parable applies: do what you can with what you have where you’re at. We are the body of Christ, and God uses every member and every service, great and small. Our job is to be faithful. But as I’ve said, my imagination was captured by the two smaller phrases. “They supposed the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” Now there’s a grand thing! I can’t help but wonder how paralyzing that would have been – indeed, I don’t have to wonder, because how many times have various religious groups assumed the second coming to be imminent and ceased to engage in all normal life activity? For this reason, Jesus uses a story to basically say, “keep calm and carry on,” BUT to do so in light of the master’s return.
“Engaging in business” seems so ordinary and downright dull sometimes; not big or grand at all. In fact, it is often far too easy to do nothing while we wait for the all-consuming purpose; to overlook inconspicuous, God-given opportunities while we think we are raising our eyes to higher things. But as servants of Christ, there is no such thing as a little life. Nor is a life “grand” because of anything we are or have done; rather, every day is grand simply because we are in the service of the King. He is coming, and it is the knowledge of that fact that should encourage us to strive for faithfulness, illuminate the everyday, and transform the way in which we live.