All my life, I wanted to do something special. My heart ached with hunger for some reason to beat. I dreamed of success that led to peace. It’s probably why I went into ministry. Besides the religious expectation that anyone showing a serious interest in Christianity must be destined to be a pastor, I wanted meaning. The problem was that once I had a meaningful calling, I started asking myself if it was meaningful enough.
I wondered if I were being spiritual enough. (I wasn’t.) If I were studying enough. (I wasn’t.) If I were witnessing enough. (I wasn’t.) If I was doing everything the congregation expected of me. (I definitely wasn’t.) So then, even smack-dab in the center of my personal world’s most important vocation, I wasn’t satisfied. I was letting myself, my congregation, and—most importantly—God, down.
Looking for Meaning in a Box Full of Meaning
Maybe you feel like that too. (I see that hand). Could be you don’t think what you do is important. (I’m praying for you on the left, sir.) If that’s the case, I’d like to lead you in a short word (I see that hand on the back pew, ma’am.) that will change your life. “All jobs are equally spiritual. Amen.”
You may enjoy your job, be really good at your job, and wouldn’t trade your job for a million dollars (well, not that). But there are starving people, and children being sold into the sex trade, and injustice, and you’re an accountant. It eats at you like it ate at me. If you could just save a few children, go to seminary, teach Sunday School. Something. But what if what you do is just as important as what anyone else does? What if you existing in the world as what you are, in the name of Jesus, is exactly what you’re called to do? And that’s okay.
On Being a Light
1 Thess 4:10-12 tells us what it should look like for a Christian to live in the world. “Be thou awesome in everything you do. Don’t settle for second best. Save the world. It’s all up to you. Be super-spiritual and turn all your conversation into a bible study.” Doesn’t say that. At all. It says, “We urge you, brothers, to [love one another] more and more. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
Our calling, our meaning, our purpose, is the gospel. Our light to the outside world is to do what we do, well; allowing faith to work itself out in love. To live out our faith practically. In that, some children will be rescued from lives of slavery, some housewife will have a friend to whom she can talk about her depression, someone will be a voice for the powerless, another will show love for the first time to an annoying kid, yet another will be a good parent (Maybe those last two are sometimes the same thing).
What’s the Christian life look like day-to-day? It’s becoming more like God—loving each other more and more. It’s a simple, quiet life where, in doing something so you’re not a financial burden on the church if you don’t have to be, you reflect Christ’s love in you. In doing that well, I’d dare say, you’re a light to the world. And God will get the glory.
Are you a typist, a nurse, a dock worker or a stay-at-home mom or dad? That’s your ministry. To paraphrase Luther, A shoe salesman isn’t Christian because he puts crosses on his shoes, he shows his faith in making really good shoes at a fair price. Our faith should infect all that we do. It should, like water to a plant, feed every branch of our lives. Enliven us. Reflecting His glory. Naturally. As Paul said, “more and more.” So that in living self-sacrificially, kindly, and always ready to forgive among everyone we come in contact with, there will be questions.
Questions only the gospel can answer.
When we try to over-spiritualize the Christian life, we do it a disservice. Being in the world is recognizing it for what it is. With all its small joys, pains, upsets and discoveries. Acknowledging every psychological weirdness and physical ailment that comes along with being human. It’s not something above the physical world; our message isn’t one of transcending the body, as if the body were a bad thing. Our message is Jesus Christ for sinners. It is stepping foot into the dusty, sweaty, lower-back pain of the every day, but not being of the self-righteous, self-interested, unforgiveness evil that infects this beautiful, physical Creation.