"Your life is meant for something bigger."
The words jump off the page of my Christian-twentysomething magazine. Jagged mountain peaks soar above the clouds in this full-page advertisement for a new book. A climber perilously perches atop one of the peaks, surveying the scene laid out before him. "Become bold and courageous," the description promises. "Live undaunted."
I flip a few more pages and find another advertisement, this one for a "seven-month overseas experience." Beneath the words "Live Your Dreams" and a faded picture of a mustached, outdoorsy-looking guy sporting a toboggan and backpack, I read, "Most of our lives we are told to, 'Grow up. Quit dreaming. Pull your head out of the clouds and get a grip." But, what if you truly could live your dreams? Imagine if you could discover your passion, learn how to walk it out, and use it to touch the world."
Well...wouldn't that be nice?
Please don't hear me questioning the value or helpfulness of these things. I know absolutely nothing about either. However, I can't help but poke a little fun at these advertisements, because they're targeted directly at the fears, insecurities, and vanities of our generation.
I mean, who wants to be ordinary? Most days I feel like I've had my fill of ordinary. I scroll through my Facebook feed and my Instagram, and it looks like all my friends are living much more exciting and adventurous and meaningful lives than I am. Where am I? Probably sitting in a nondescript coffee shop trying to focus on the stack of books I have to read for class. Or maybe I'm eating another Trader Joe's frozen meal over the kitchen sink. I might be sitting in traffic on the interstate...wondering if I'm just wasting my life.
Everyone else seems to be hitchhiking across Europe...or changing the world...or having babies. I'm not entirely sure what it means to "live authentically," but I'm pretty sure that everyone else is doing that...and I'm not.
Isn't my life meant for something bigger? What have I done this week that's even close to bold or courageous? I didn't even get out of bed until 10:30 this morning. I'm not living my dreams...I'm not even sure what my dreams are. In fact, I feel a little guilty, because it seems like everyone else in my generation has dreams and I'm just trying to hold myself together until Fall Break.
Here's the crazy/funny/sad part. There are probably people who look at my Facebook and my Instagram and wish their life was as interesting or exciting as mine. Why? Because I'm so desperately insecure about how ordinary my life seems that I put significant effort into convincing everyone (including myself) that my life is indeed interesting and exciting.
[Enter Same-sex Attraction, stage left.]
Hold the phone! Same-sex attraction, you say? Well, this changes things! Not only is that interesting, but in our current cultural climate, it's incredibly important. Maybe this is how God will make me extraordinary. Maybe this is why people will read my blog posts. Maybe this is why people will tell me my life is meaningful.
On the record: I don't want all that. I don't want fame. I just want to tell my story.
Off the record: Bullcrap. Hand me that microphone...
This shouldn't come as any great surprise. Trust me, I wouldn't be pulling out this kind of vulnerability on the internet if I didn't believe that you probably know exactly what I mean.
Our generation has tended to spiritualize the extraordinary. Our everyday lives are well and good, but if we've truly been transformed by the gospel, we will do extraordinary things. Well, wait a minute...I actually agree with that. If we've been transformed by the gospel, we will do extraordinary things. I just think our definition of extraordinary is a little out of whack.
The gospel is extraordinary, ya'll.
There have been a lot of stories in history about various gods and deities and how mankind can gain their favor. However, in the gospel, we find the only story of the Divine entering our world, our time and space...eating our food, walking our soil, and breathing our air. It's the only story of a God who is willing to suffer humiliation, pain, and death for his people...people in open rebellion against him. It's the only story of a God who loves to rebuild, renew, and restore instead of replace; a God who promises to make everything sad come untrue.
This is the story of Scripture...and it's extraordinary. There's nothing else like it. When we enter into this story and live it out, extraordinary things happen. Whether we're living it out in the jungles of South America or a suburban office park in South Carolina, we can't live out the radical story of sacrificially loving our enemies without seeing extraordinary results.
In that same magazine I mentioned above, I read a fascinating quote, "When Jesus called His disciples, He didn't tell them, 'Lead others.' He told them, 'Follow Me.'" We're not called to chart our own course. With all due respect to the seven-month overseas experience, Jesus never told us to "live our dreams." He told us to follow Him. Sometimes, following Jesus takes us where we've always dreamed of going. Sometimes, following Jesus takes where we never imagined we'd ever go...only to realize there's nowhere else we'd rather be. Sometimes, following Jesus takes us where we definitely don't want to go.
We're promised that following Jesus will involve struggles, trials, and pain. It certainly won't be easy. We might follow him to the Middle East. We might follow him to inner-city Chicago. We might follow him to the Nashville suburbs. We don't get to say, "God, you've given me too much!" Nor do we get to say, "God, you haven't given me enough!" He's told us to follow him, wherever he leads us...and he promises never to leave us or forsake us. Whether we're in Texas or Tehran, our Savior goes before us, beside us, and behind us, and He has won the victory.
"I may not know the way I go, but oh! I know my Guide."
I don't have to figure out all the plans God has for me. All I can do is trust Him and follow Him day by day. I don't have to order my life in such as way as to allow God to use me. He's got that under control. I'm just called to trust and obey. Trusting and obeying might lead me into a life of epic, non-stop adventures...stuff that everyone will want to read about. Trusting and obeying might lead me to a life of faithful, long-term obscurity...only visible to those who know me.
Either way, I know this. Trusting and obeying will lead all of us into a life that is truly extraordinary. There's no way around it. Whether you're rescuing slaves in Eastern Europe or making your home a warm, safe, and hospitable place where your children can bring their friends after school...following Jesus is extraordinary, and it will have an impact on the Kingdom.
And when you stand before the Throne on that glorious day, you will hear those beautiful words: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Grace & peace,
Your Brother Behind the Mask