Monday, July 11, 2011

there's this thing...

there's this thing that no one tells you. after you graduate college, all you think about is how you're going to change the world. you can't believe that it hasn't already been done, really, because it's pretty simple.

then, one day, you wake up and you're twenty-six and you wonder where the years have gone. (yes, i realize how totally ridiculous that sounds), and you learn that the secret goes something like this:

it's not what you thought it would be.


it is everything that you thought it would be.

two of my greatest temptations since graduating college have been the drawing towards cynicism, on the one hand, and naive idealism on the other. most of us can probably understand that slide into cynicism, especially if the message we got (heard, created, received, whatever) in our undergraduate years was that the world was looking for people just like us. The world needed us -- our particular gifts, our affinity to parade around shoeless in solidarity with, um, the shoeless folks of the world, our strong messages and even more strongly-held convictions that had been thought out but never put to the test outside our college environment.

Now, we find ourselves in data entry jobs, or struggling conscientiously to create very small companies of our own, or working with people who could care less about our unique gifts and personal development and care mostly about a bottom line. To borrow from F. Buechner, the world doesn't seem to care about meeting its great hunger with our great gladness. It just wants to be fed.

(To be clear, I don't feel this way about my current job -- I don't want to give that impression. But I have been here, and return here from time to time.)

On the other hand, there is this truth that I believe in viscerally, that I would stake my life on, that undergirds most everything I do and believe and it is this: We are God's plan to change the world. We -- you and me and every other person who has ever lived -- are part of the work that God is doing in the world and, in fact, we ARE the work. And that is no small thing, because even when we are entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet for eight hours a day, we are part of making this world better, making each other better, making ourselves better, participating in transformation -- and in that way, changing the world.

Dallas Willard, who is otherwise pretty much a slouch in the intellectual category, (I kid!) has said numerous times that 'eternity is already in session.' And isn't that good news?! We don't have to wait for death or heaven to become who God wants us to be -- that is available to us here, and now. When we allow our thinking to be transformed in this way, even eight hours of Excel data entry can become meaningful work (The caveat here is that it's still a good thing to want to work in your giftedness. Which, for me, would emphatically not be Excel). But no matter who you are our your giftedness, if you've found yourself at twenty-four (or fourty-four, or seventy-three) in a job where you don't feel your deep gladness meeting the world's deep hunger, there is still this remarkable opportunity to become who God wants you to be.

And we work hard to become that person, and we work hard to change the world. I'm not going to get into a James Davison Hunter/Andy Crouch conversation here (although I would highly recommend both "To Change the World" and "Culture Makers"), but I will say that at my core, I believe that God created people with specific gifts to be used in specific ways for no smaller purpose than reconciling the world to its Creator. And that is what we get to participate in -- Excel spreadsheet or not. We lose sight of that when we lapse into cynicism, and we take too much into our own hands when we don't acknowledge the help that we need and the power of community. God will use us - unleash us, if you will - to achieve his purposes. But it won't always look the way we assure ourselves it will look. So we are patient, and we walk in faithfulness the path that is before us...


jmcd said...

here i sit...working on an excel spreadsheet. that i will work on until the end of the day. love your words, love your brain. can't wait to see you.

Erica.Michelle. said...

Ah I love this post and I love your heart. Such a sweet reminder of Truth. Luv u.