I really enjoy meeting new people. I love hearing their stories, about life, marriage, kids, work and ministry. But I always dread the moment the conversation turns towards me. Why? Because I know THAT question is coming. The one that I feel like I never have a good-enough answer for. The one, since my early retirement from director of the Toriscelli Academy of Higher Learning, aka: homeschool mom, I still haven’t found a good way to answer. What is this question that makes me cringe?
“So, what do you do?”
It seems like someone in their sixth decade of life should be able to concisely give a satisfactory answer to a question like that. However, my answer to that question seems to change as often as the weather. (If you’re from Tennessee you’ll know how often that really is!) But I guess I struggle to answer that question for two reasons really – I don’t like how it makes me feel and I don’t like what it implies.
Although I am 99% certain that the person asking that question is doing so out of innocent curiosity, my tender heart reads it as implying that my worth is tied to my performance. Somewhere along my long life I've believed the lie that what I do matters more than who I am. I know I’m not alone in this ungodly belief. It is reinforced continually in our current culture. My social media feed is full of women my age, and slightly younger, who have managed to turn their hobbies into some sort of business. While I applaud their ingenuity and support their endeavors, the constant comparison of them doing something vs. me doing nothing that earns income stings a little.
This question also, almost always, stirs up the thought that I should be doing more with my life. But the truth is God hasn't called me to one over-arching passionate pursuit in life. He has not called me into a single job or ministry in my church or community. I do serve in multiple small ways, but when I list those in answer to the aforementioned question, it feels like I'm grasping at straws to make myself appear significant. I have really bought into the myth that if I am not doing some big thing for God, then I am failing.
One of my precious prayer partners recently gave me a book called Every Moment Holy, Volume 1, by Douglas McKelvey. Just the title alone has created a welcome shift in my day-to-day thinking. What would it mean for me to live as if every moment is indeed holy? And this book of prayers truly lives up to that title, with examples such as “Liturgies… For Arriving at the Ocean; For the Watching of Storms; For the Washing of Windows; Upon Being Moved By a Song; For the Changing of Diapers 1 and For the Changing of Diapers 2!” Just the sheer volume of moments to pause and pray listed in the table of contents is both thought-provoking and humorous!
But it does have some very serious supplications, like the ones found in the section entitled “Liturgies of Sorrow and Lament.” The first prayer in this section resonated in my soul… “For Those Who Have Not Done Great Things for God.”
Because this incredibly poetic petition is seven pages long, I cannot post it here. But I will attempt to give a brief summary of how it ministered to my broken thinking.
The first section is lament by the one who prayed and hoped and believed they might be called to do some great thing for God. Just that idea – that it is okay, even necessary, to lament an unmet expectation is reaffirming. Who can say that they were never disappointed by the outcome, or lack of outcome, of a grand prayer prayed in earnest faith? It’s ok to be sad about that reality.
The second section then reminds and challenges with the truth that even if God calls you to some great thing, it is Him working through you to accomplish that great thing. So, the service that God called someone to, as well as the outcome, are all planned and designed by him in the first place! The author suggests that the belief that anything depends on me, on my striving, on my talent is a “burden.” Which is probably what Jesus was speaking to when he told us to come to him when we are weary and burdened in Matt.11:28-30 (NIV)
Ungodly beliefs that get integrated into our thinking create heavy emotional and psychological burdens. And the only person who can take away that type of burden is Jesus. Only he can identify the point on your timeline when this belief first developed. Then, after agreeing with him that it is a false belief, he alone can remove it completely and replace it with truth. His truth is the yoke that is easy and light!
McKelvey declares the truth like this:
“You have till now been too invested in the results of your own efforts, as if those outcomes were a thing you could ever know or measure in this life! Be invested instead, child, in simple obedience to your king, and in long faithfulness to his call, shepherding daily those gifts and tasks and relationships he has entrusted to you, regardless of outcomes and appearances. He will bring all things right in his way and in his time. All he asks is your willingness. Your heart is in his hands. Your ways are in his hands. Your days are in his hands.” (Every Moment Holy, Vol. 1, p.205-6)
The prayer continues, gently replacing faulty thoughts with true and hopeful ones! The final reminder: our greatest work for God is “to learn to love God and love others, practicing his mercies daily.”
So maybe, I shouldn’t dread THAT question anymore. If I am pursuing him, if I am learning to love him, I will grow in my ability to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with him (see Micah 6:8 NIV). This place of abiding is just Jesus promised, “I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28 NIV).
What do I do? I try to make myself available to do whatever God shows me to do. And sometimes, I get it right!
Note: The entire version of the prayer that I spoke about is available for download for a small fee at everymomentholy.com/liturgies. The publishers have also provided some other liturgies for free download. I encourage you to take a look.