When I was a girl, I often read biographies. Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa stand out the most and I can still remember the shape and smell of those library pages and where I was when the ideas shook my little spirit from side to side, waking me up to the greater world.
I wanted to live an influential life; one that made an imprint on history, one that affected life after life with help and hope. I wanted to start movements! It was bright and innocent, those aspirations from this idealist. It was all-American too. I was the product of a colonized country, a girl growing up in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s when the idea that people could “change the world” was just beginning to be written about, books on the subject breeding like rabbits into the 21st century until it spewed out all over the world-wide web. No one has been immune to the seduction.
But the problem with little-girl aspirations and grown-up seductions is that they can turn into driven and delusional ambitions that are really all about me, and my heart that is deceptive above all things. Trust me, I know, for bit by bit through the years God’s been hammering mine off, the freedom without them feeling so much better than the weight they brought.
You see, we live in an age that I believe particularly feeds an ego, all these ideas about changing the world– so beautifully disguised in altruistic motives–with food that fuels every sinner’s inherent desire to be worshipped by being noticed. Don’t we see it all around us? So much self-promotion in the name of “helping others”, so much daily “show and tell” that easily becomes comparison and competition, so much of all our “promoting and marketing” as if we are back in Jr. High and needing to impress and prove while we compulsively “follow” the lives of others and report about ours, rather than simply live them. Really, we are the ones in a ll of history whom invented “selfies”! Need I elaborate on how much we have lost our sense of dignity and the beauty of our daily lives lived under the gaze of God and not the spotlight we project? What is this really, all this clamoring to be heard, to be noticed, to be desired, to sell, to have an opinion and voice it? And our compassion, even it can be a good costume for pride, for the burden we take on can make us believe we could be the Savior.
Do we have to give in? What if we did not? Is it possible?
When I think on the saints I have known, the saints I have read, it was those who were intentional about living a quiet, faithful and almost hidden life. I noticed. They had the power, quite oblivious them, to “change my world”. They were, they are, not involved in noisy efforts to draw attention to themselves. They keep their eyes on Jesus and when they act and how they act is only because the Spirit within them beckons and they obey. They abide. They have no desire to sit and count their fruit or fertilize themselves. It is not their prerogative. And they are at peace, for they have not distorted the Gospel and made it about their striving, but rather their grateful and loving obedience.
If you want to get intelligent about all this, then you could look at writer Andy Crouch and his study on culture-making where he states: “My ability to make small changes in my local world is dwarfed by my dependence on the changes other people make at larger scales of culture.” Yes. A whole lot of factors we have no control over. Though we like to think we can and do, it is the Holy Spirit who first must work in the hearts of man.
But are we a generation of Christians who is more attuned to “postings” and “pins” than the voice of God? It seems we are because we are the ones posting as much as we can on every social network in every form imaginable, it is us marketing to death, it is us “doing our part so He can do His”(where is that in the Bible?), it is us networking — I forgot, networking is dead now, right? It is us reading the life of Jesus with the paradigm of a 21st century CEO and thinking the Mt. of Olives was esentially His “platform”. It is us offering commentary on everything from cleaning our toilets to our moonlight walks with our spouses so we can all feel we are human and validate our existence.
And it is all too much, more than we were even made to handle.
Is this making any sense? Am I getting too snarky and cynical? Of course, I do not dis-credit the good in our world becoming flat, I just feel we have been too much deceived and lulled, no different and in many ways, no better.
You see, I don’t live in the USA anymore and in me it is doing strange wonders. I am pondering all this through different lenses. One begins to see in new ways, one begins to breath in new ways. I live in a country that was not colonized, but conquered. Therefore, the thinking is different. I walk among it all…the slowness, the lingering, even the fatalism. But, I see how life is savored. It still sucks the marrow out of it, but it does not crush the bones. You start to see that crawling into heaven worn-out is not particularly that admirable, it just says I was shooting at every good target I saw hoping I would hit something, ensuring my own fruitfulness and thinking that a reflective life was a wasted life and rest was in competition with activity. What kind of “legacy” does that leave?
It strips you down, this moving to another country where you are really a nobody and how much you can talk and give, in the beginning stages of assimilation, is limited. It speaks to you in the quietness of the night and tells you that the call to be a missionary, the call to be one who wants to serve and love, the programmed desire to “change this world” is rather a call to ultimate and grueling humility. It’s a call to brokeness, to anaminity, to simplicity, to emptying myself, to plodding, to feeling like a Moses, to dying to self so Jesus might be more alive in you and help Himself to your life whenever and however He pleases. It was never a call to pose as a demigod; it’s a death blow to any remnant of pride or arrogance. It is brutal and it is wonderful. It is an invitation to experience just how little I am and how little I can do, but how much He can. And how much in spite of me and yes, without me, He has this country, this world in His hands.
So, in light of all this, we can stop raising our hands and begging for Him to pick us! please? Can stop pleading for the teams of this world to pick us, too as if we are in a non-stop popularity contest? We can rest and we can know we have already been picked and we have already won. That the world and all that is within it, belongs to Him. That He wants us just to be still, to lean in and stick close, to be quiet and mind our own business, to do with joy the work that He has established for us. For He is watching and His records are true.
So, I wonder, I have this dream that we could all shut-up and shut-down for just a day, the same day. We could all find a tree firmly rooted for so many years without our help, and sit under it. We could all bow our heads and our knees and worship Him and acknowledge He is the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And all the change we want to see, all the goodness we want our lives to be, we could pray it out to Him. We could pace and cry, hurl and yell and give it all to Him until the bowls in heaven full of the saint’s intercessions are so full they tip. They come back down on us with answers and hope and change we never could bring, were God not God and we not His quieted and confident children, our energy directed in the one place that ushers forth any good change and that clarifies all our ambitions.
The biographies? I am still a sucker for them. They are still good. So good, I read them to my children. But I tell them God is writing their biography and no worry, they do and will serve to do more than inspire, they will declare His praises for the ages to come.
And the older I get, that is becoming my only ambition.