by Marjorie George
A ministry opportunity presents itself. In faithfulness, I enter into the discernment process. I go again to Frederick Buechner’s definition of “vocation” as “the place where the world’s greatest need meets your greatest passion.”
Is this ministry something I feel passionate about? Yes.
Is this something the world needs to have done? Does it benefit society? Yes.
Is it scriptural? Is it something that resonates with the faith I have been taught? Yep.
What about me. Am I equipped to do this ministry? Do I have the ability needed, the resources that will be called upon, the time to commit? Yes, yes, and really I could make the time.
Then Jesus looked at the rich, young ruler with the eyes of love and said: “Now give it all up and come, follow me” (Mark 10: 21).
Well I didn’t see that coming. I was preparing to offer God my gifts and talents and abilities – the ones that YOU gave me, God, I might add – and God asks for myself instead.
I can see myself in this ministry and I will take that chair right over there, God, I say. Bless me on my way.
God says, “Right, now go over here.”
But God, I point out, I could do that over there.
“Got it,” says God. “Now go over here.”
Really, I am better working out of my strengths — you know, the ones YOU have given me.
“And I want you to work out of my strength,” he replies.
God is always choosing people, points out Richard Rohr. But “First impressions aside, God is not primarily choosing them for a role or a task, although it might appear that way. God is really choosing them to be God’s self in this world, each in a unique situation. If they allow themselves to experience being chosen, being a beloved, being somehow God’s presence in the world, they invariably communicate that same chosenness to others.” (Daily meditation for September 16, 2013, find it here http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Richard-Rohr-s-Daily-Meditation–You-Have-to-Be-a-Beloved-to-Know.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=WIKS9hNDLm0 )
Jesus, walking along the seashore, calls Peter, James, and John – but not to be better fishermen. He does not choose Matthew for spiritual training in how to become a better tax collector. God equips us and showers us with gifts and teaches us and sets us on a path then says, “Now put that all aside and just show up. And, by the way, nothing has been wasted.”
Christ had a great ministry going. Who knows what else he might have accomplished had his life not been cut short. How many more followers he might have attracted. How much easier it would have been for his disciples. How many martyrs’ lives might have been spared. Maybe the entire Roman Empire could have been converted on his watch.
But he came to God saying, “Nevertheless, your will be done, not mine.” And that was the offer God wanted (Matthew 26:39).
It is exactly our uniqueness that each of us brings to the Kingdom and that each of us must put second to first being the expression of God in the world. In Four Elements: Reflections on Nature, John O’Donohue writes, “It is ontologically and spiritually true that each person is privileged and burdened with the gift of uniqueness . . . No one else sees your life in the way that you do. No one else feels your life in the way that you do. Neither can any other stand on the same ground as you . . . You are the unique inhabitant of your own reality and of your own life” (pg 5-6).
So it is my uniqueness that God asks me to bring to ministry, and it is my uniqueness that God asks me to surrender. My gifts, skills, and talents are not what I have to offer; what I have to offer is being a creature whom God created, Christ redeemed, and the Holy Spirit endows with a certain perspective and a certain experience. Everything else is just details.
Thomas Merton, observing nature, writes “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to [God’s] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree” (from New Seeds of Contemplation).
“And thus the Mystery passes on from age to age,” says Rohr. “Yes, we do have roles and tasks in this world, but finally they are all the same—to uniquely be divine love in a way that no one else can or will.”
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Go out into nature and spend 15 minutes thinking about Thomas Merton’s reflection that “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.”
Or try our new 15-Minute Meditation – click here
Take a walk using the Cathedral Park Meditation Walk. Go to the page for more info.
Attend the opening of “Seasons” at Cathedral House Gallery on Sunday, Sept 22, 2 to 4 pm. Go to the page for more info.
See the calendar for more spiritual formation opportunities. Click here.