I’ve always been a black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinker, which for the most part has not served me well — because most of life is lived and figured out in the gray areas.
If I didn’t get an A on that assignment in college, then I failed. The cake I baked fell a little in the oven, so I might as well throw it out. I realize this kind of thinking isn’t the healthiest, and I’ve come a long way over the years in not falling prey to this type of mindset. It’s limiting and gets me stuck in rash, quick judgments about people and situations, not allowing for any kind of grace or risk or bravery. It’s where fear lives; in fact it feeds off fear and convinces me that any thing gone wrong or not the way I originally wanted it to is an automatic failure.
Unfortunately, this mind trap has carried over into my spiritual life as well. I’ve definitely worked through a lot and grown throughout the last several years, but one idea that has followed me around for awhile is the concept of faith and vocation. I have always struggled with thinking that, in terms of any future job I have, it must be one directly related to a Christian purpose – such as a ministry, certain nonprofits or working for a Church. To me, these types of work were more “holy” and “meaningful” and serve the larger purpose in the Kingdom of God. Obviously these are all good and needed areas of work, but there are a number of flaws that come along with this way of thinking.
The more I’ve wrestled with this notion, the more I’ve realized how contrary it is to the character of God. To live a life of isolation in solely “Godly” roles and/or environments – where is the multiplication of believers in that? Where are the challenges in being in this world, but not of it?
We are not instructed to withdraw; we are commanded to go out in the world and fight for the Kingdom of God each and every day of our lives. Like the Jews who were living in makeshift houses when they were exiled to Babylon and refusing to admit they were going to be there for more than a couple of days, we too convince ourselves that since this earth is not our permanent home, we rationalize that we don’t have to fully invest and dive into the people and situations around us.
The passage found in Jeremiah 29:1-14 makes things rather simple though, doesn’t it? The people are instructed to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease.” Here’s the fact – we are all living in the in-between; between the present, earthly, broken world and the future Kingdom of God that is to come.
We, like the rest of creation, “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Some days my heart longs more than anything for that Kingdom to come. But, for now, I am to be obedient and faithful with what I have in front of me. To take care of the environment around me, have a family, provide them with food, raise them in the knowledge of Christ.
But we are called to more than just investing in the people and environments around us for the sake of Christ. We are called a step further, to seek the welfare of the city where we live and pray to the Lord on its behalf (Jeremiah 29:7). Of course, we must tend to our families and immediate situations requiring our engagement day in and day out, but if the body of Christ neglects the world around us, especially the cities in which we live, then who will be left to pray and fight for the needs of the people who are helpless, to be the voice for those who have been taken advantage of or those living in fear due to oppression or prejudice? If believers don’t go out into all sectors of society, then the places that are already deeply infested with darkness will only grow sicker and more infested with sin.
All situations, conversations, relationships and experiences have the potential to be times of growth in our faith, whether that’s through challenge, service, discomfort, risk, comfort – the possibilities are endless. It’s up to us whether we choose to view our everyday routines or humdrum tasks as an opportunity to glorify and please the Lord.
Our purpose and His calling boil down to this – to know Him and to make Him known. We are to jump into whatever is in front of us – with obedience and a willingness to walk faithfully no matter how big or how small the task set before us. It doesn’t matter whether that means being the CEO of a company, preaching at the Church, or putting away laundry at home. All can be done in an act of service to our God – whether it’s used for God’s glory and greater purposes is up to us, not Him. Will I choose to be joyful and grateful that I have clothes to wash, in a house that most people around the world will never even have the chance to experience living in? Will I be honest and uphold integrity with my boss and coworkers?
Like all matters in the Kingdom, it is the heart that God sees, not what appears on the outside. God doesn’t care so much about what we do; He is more concerned with who we are becoming. And this is the root issue we are to be most concerned about everyday of our lives. Am I becoming more like Christ, growing in my faith and trust in Him, no matter my present circumstance? Because if not, then I’ve missed the true meaning that is to be found in the mundane.
Kayla Burgess is a member of the 2015-2016 Falls Church Fellows Program.