Saturday, September 10, 2016

One Great, Overwhelming 'Yes'

Life has been impressing on me the finitude of humanity over the course of the last few years, starting from when I entered college and discovered there were far too many good things for me to actively participate in on a regular basis. I found choosing classes for each semester particularly agonizing, as there were always more than eighteen-credits worth I wished to take, and even if I took the max of eighteen credits it inevitably meant that to succeed at all of them I would be passing up other great aspects of college life.

I acknowledge that this was perhaps the best way to discover our finitude -- through an abundance of blessing and goodness -- and so pity, perhaps, might be hard to find, which I find understandable.

It's part of what I like to call the privileged, Western, post-modern problem. Whether or not it's really a Western problem, I'm not entirely sure -- like with most things, probably not exclusively. Same goes with post-modern. That being said, it's one you encounter over and over and over again among college and high school students of my generation in the United States. The whole, "what are you going to do?" question having a multitude of possible answers, with most people changing theirs at a rapid rate and changing majors to match.

In his book, The Road to Character, David Brooks sums up my generation (and probably a half generation to either side) by saying we're characterized by an inability to say 'No,' which leads to our inability to say one great, overwhelming 'Yes.' By and large I think this rings true for a lot of us. Not all, of course not, as few things seem to do that -- but for a lot of us.

In any case, I find that it rings true for me. With the exception of course, of my first and greatest yes being given to Jesus. That is true -- there is nothing I wouldn't leave in a heartbeat if I had a definitive word from the Lord to do so. I don't mean that in some sort of arrogant, "look how holy and devoted I am" kind of way. I simply mean that I'm not passionate about any one thing to the point where I couldn't give it up if Christ made it clear I needed to do so. Not acting, not writing, not sports, not anime, not movies, not good food, not coffee, not travel, not even reading. Of course you could say I've never had to go without any of those things indefinitely, and that's true. But I'm not here to argue about that.

To circle back around, I'm currently working a fairly flexible "internship." I'm fresh out of college, far from most of my college friends, not committed to any serious relationship with a woman and involved in few "extracurricular" activities. That's to say, I probably have more flexibility with how to spend my time than just about anybody out there.

That being said, I still feel this finitude all-too-clearly. I still feel I'm not getting as much time in the Word as I would like. I still feel I'm not reading as much as I would like. I'm not writing as much as I would like. I'm not watching anime as much as I would like. And I'm not acting at all, and doing minimal amounts of sports/time out of doors.

I don't like to do things haphazardly. I like to be earnestly invested in the things I do. I like to pour myself into them. I have a thirst to do things excellently. Often, too great a thirst that I need to loosen my hands on. I want to fully invest myself in just a couple of things, and do those things to the best of my ability -- to be able to take pride in the "craft of my hands."

But I keep running into this inability to fully let some things go. Or if I do, I have to force myself to put them fully out of mind and make myself not care or desire to connect with it when it comes along. It's just so hard to invest yourself in one or two things, but still be open to receiving with open hands a good thing that turns up just for a brief season.

It strikes me that there's a deep need here for an ongoing, sensitive ear for what the Lord's doing in a particular season. To know where he would have you thrust your efforts for the time-being.

But this brings up so many difficult, far reaching questions and possible implications to possibly be tackled here.

I constantly find myself trying to craft some kind of ideal life/lifestyle/life setup that allows me to sit back with hands off and watch myself become what I want to become. But again and again I find this to not be possible, and to be something of a sick reflection of a Pharisaical religion that doesn't require ongoing relationship and engagement. But for someone (like the vast majority of people, I think) who likes to have things organized in some fashion and to have a good idea of where I'm going and some kind of framework for making sense of things, it's really hard to dwell in that place of peace free of striving to become. Free of that ambition to become great (maybe I would be in Slytherin house after all).

I say yes to Jesus, that goes without saying. But the thing, in part, is what does that look like? I think it's absolutely false that if you're passionate about Jesus you should necessarily go into Church ministry or across the world. But I also can't let myself shy away from that possibility simply because I know it's not necessitated.

An overwhelming 'yes' to Jesus is the only one required. But for some, that means an overwhelming yes in some way shape or fashion to something else as well. Not the kind of yes that means you would go to your death for it, or that it unseats Jesus somehow, but the kind of yes that requires much sacrifice and honing in on a particular thing -- for example, the world class athletes who shine for Christ at the Olympics, or the artists, or the politicians, or whoever.

How do I focus enough on the talents God has given me, honing them to excellence and using them for his glory, while holding them loosely enough that I do not lose sight of him in the pursuit? Lose sight of relationship and love?

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