Occasional thoughts from a young adult reveling in the messiness of life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach.” (Thoreau, Walden)
Although I’m not a huge fan of Thoreau, this quote has always spoken to me. The two years he spent in the woods were intentional and deliberate. Just like the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness – intentional and deliberate. I wish I could say that more times in my life have been like that.
I was very deliberate in my spiritual journey the first few years after I returned to the church. I spent a lot of time working with a ministry called “Vocare” that focuses on vocational discernment for young adults. I’m not really sure what propelled me to go to my first Vocare weekend, but when I first heard about it, something inside of me just said “go.”
When I got there, I thought that I would be searching for my one true calling – and I was truly a bit afraid that it might lead me down a path other than the one I had seen myself traveling. I had these momentary glimpses in my mind of Jesus walking up to me and saying “Follow Me – leave everything behind and follow me.” Because honestly, I wasn’t quite prepared to just drop everything.
But I realized that God did say “Follow me.” And I did. God called me to be in that place. And perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom that I got out of my first Vocare experience is that God calls us not once, but often and always. While our individual vocations will vary, we as Christians are challenged with responding to something so big that it is often difficult to fathom. We are called to respond to the fact that God felt a love so great for us that would make Him want to take flesh, walk among us and then die so that we can be healed.
It’s certainly a very heavy thing to consider, and we all respond in different ways. The point to me has always been that even if we don’t think that we respond well (and I often don’t), the fact that we struggle with it shows that we are responding.
But sometimes it’s hard for us to be deliberate when the world around us is so unpredictable. For those of us who have jobs, we may wonder how long we’ll get to keep them. For those of us who are out of work, we may wonder when we’ll finally find a job. For those of us in school, we wonder what the economy will be like when we graduate.
Sometimes it’s hard to think about tomorrow. But for me, the promise of tomorrow is the promise of hope. The promise that no matter how crazy life gets, when we lay our heads down to rest, we will wake up to a new day full of new possibilities.
But God rarely shouts – He whispers – and sometimes it takes getting away from all the craziness of our lives to let God’s voice rise above the noise of our jobs and our to-do lists and all of life’s uncertainties.
However, we don’t often find enough opportunities like that—opportunities to sit quietly, to listen, to learn, to discuss and to be empowered to continue the revolution that began long before we were even here…a revolution that began with a baby.
“…a baby they named Jesus. And when that baby grew up, He would listen and He would heal, and He would make friends and turn the other cheek. And He would laugh and He would teach and He would forgive sins. He would raise the dead, cure the blind and feed thousands with just a few crumbs. He would walk on water and still storms.” (from a sermon at St. Luke’s in Birmingham, 2009)
Sometimes it’s easy to read the Bible and think that the story ends when the book ends. But the truth in being a Christian is that the story continues. That’s worth repeating: the story continues with us.
The point of the story isn’t reaching some predefined end – some goal that is mysteriously set for us. The point of the story, of the search, of the journey is to be transformed by it.
“We are called to love because He loves; we are called to forgive because He forgives. We can feed a hungry and waiting world—not just with sandwiches and soups—but with spiritual food – with what we carry in our hearts. And we can do this because the love never ends. The story never ends.” (ibid.)
Bishop Alexander once said that “young adults are not the future of the church – they are the church.” Jesus began his ministry when he was our age – and we are each a ministry, too. We are—as my favorite Bible verse says—“a letter from Christ…written, not with pen and ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Corinthians 3:3)
Let’s be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s respond to the call to continue the revolution. Let’s live deliberately as open letters to the world, because this world needs us to have courage to write great stories.
*This post is adapted from a talk I gave at a young adult gathering in 2010