After flipping through Matthew's copy of The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne (founder of the SimpleWay) this summer, I finally picked up my own copy yesterday. I'm only about 140 pages in, but I can tell you there were words in the first 100 that could have been my own, and I was so taken aback by it I that had to read them several times. It's interesting to read where his thoughts from then have taken him today. I imagine he finds himself in a very different place now than he ever envisioned, and that can be a result of only one thing: God is amazing. As I have been anxiously trying to make decisions about my own life this week, this story offers me a refreshing excitement to see how my own story will unravel.
That brings me to Discernment. I have a special place in my heart for this word. Since college and the days of small groups formed from the Lilly endowment's vocational formation program at my school, this word has brought with it a plethora of emotions. Anxiety, joy… excitement, even! But also humility, confusion, sometimes sorrow or fear. A healthy sort of fear. The kind of awareness (if not an actual form of the emotion) of apprehension that keeps me aware of the fact that I am not actually in control. A recognition that reminds me of my need to keep relying on God in all that I do. I guess “fear” may not be the right word to describe this emotion, but I am at a loss for how to describe the determination and hope and focus and intensity that come with the desire to always seek refuge in uncomfortable situations... to always seek a way to work for change when I become comfortable in a place that our broken society is also comfortable with. For what good and positive changes ever come from comfort and safety? I "fear" living in that place... and I refuse to let FEAR keep me from seeking change in these ways...
Some days, I am so uncertain of what my future holds I find myself in a place of real fear, in which I cannot so much as try to process where I will be 9 months from now (upon graduation)… so I find myself in the place I should have been all along: in prayer.
From that, I have concluded that there is only one thing I can know about how I am being called to live: I know I am being called to love people, and to love people well. We talked a lot this summer about the challenge of "loving people we have never met." We spent 2 months raising money and awareness to help our brothers and sisters in Africa reach access to clean water. The more we talked about it, the more I realized that for me, that isn't always that hard. They're far away. I am "safe" from their harsh reality. I'm not doing the walking every day to get dirty water - I'm helping them stop doing so by driving a van and giving people water I bought at a store that morning. I am Safe. I realize that I don't want to be - and do not feel called to be - so "safe". What we did this summer was an amazing, miraculous feat and I have absolutely no regrets about what we did, how we did it, or why we did it. God was a part of that team and of our mission. And it wasn't safe in many, many ways. But its not the end for me, either.
I want to use this experience as one more that will help me to love people, and love them well. I want to face the challenge of loving people not just from a safe distance, but up close and personal. To love them not just on the days we can celebrate together and share in fellowship, but to love them on the days when it is most difficult to do so, whether because of hardship or exhaustion or 'simple' things like a personality conflict (as was sometimes hard with the very people on our own team... here in the 'safe' land of our own 'real' lives). I want to love people and be fully engaged in a ministry of presence, seeking to do "what is good" as I learn to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).
Wherever I end up and whatever I end up doing, I want to learn to listen well so that my ministry is one that engages fully not with what an institution tells me needs to be done, but with what the people with whom I live in community with most need. Maybe those things will even be the same... but I pray for the opportunity to take time to be present and build relationships before taking action.
So in the end, it comes down to what sounds like a cheesy cliché, but is really where all of my heart and soul are invested. I want to love well. Nothing more, nothing less. A big task, I am sure, and one I will have to grow in to. But I trust that whatever path I am on a year from now, it will be doing just that.
(and I hope Mom is okay with that path, too!)