I was casting about during my hiatus between college engagements. I hadn’t flunked out of college, but I had been dangerously close to making it onto the not-so-good list of which the academic dean informs you in light of insufficient academic performance.
I’ve previously shared the story of my real estate forray. One reason for my failure in that effort was my lack of motivation and failure to find a sufficient reason to succeed at selling real estate. The practices and necessary real estate disciplines lay in a pool of unmotivated malaise. I was not doing the kind of hard work necessary to secure listings and sell houses. I couldn’t see a purpose for my life in that field.
That has nothing to do with whether being a real estate agent is a godly calling. It certainly can be. Fact is, one of the real estate companies in town was run by members of the church I had grown up in. They were good and godly people. Their presence in the mix made it less urgent in my mind for me to be a godly real estate agent. They were standing in that gap. I truly wanted to be a godly man in whatever field I chose. But I was not able to manufacture the chutzpah necessary to make a go of it in real estate.
Nor was I able to leverage the thought of being “a godly hotel manager, doctor, or businessman” as one or more people tried to convince me to try. In fact several girls I dated during those years had a similar response whenever I mentioned the idea of studying to be a pastor. “Oh but don’t you think you could be a Christian…” they would say and then they would offer other vocational suggestions: doctor, businessman, sailor, soldier man, taylor, and the like. I called them the “Oh, but don’t” girls. I could have done any of those things in theory. But nothing in those vocations – as godly and good as they might be – captured my imagination or passion.
I was floundering. I had no purpose to which I could hitch my wagon. I saw no purpose in pursuing those goals. I believe today that God was at work in keeping me from being satisfied with any of those pursuits. That does not mean, however, that they are unworthy or ungodly. It simply was not the purpose God had planned for me.
Some people place being a pastor at the top of a pyramid of godliness and the most significant way one can serve God. This is heresy. If anything, being a pastor should be at the bottom. The Bible says that if anyone desires to be an overseer (pastor) he desires a noble work (1 Timothy 3:1). But it also says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Martin Luther spoke highly of the office of pastor. He also said, “If you ask an insignificant maid-servant why she scours a dish or milks the cow, she can say: I know that the thing I do pleases God, for I have God’s Word and commandment…God does not look at the insignificance of the acts but at the heart that serves Him in such little things.”
More often than not we underestimate how what we do – grand or mundane – can have an impact for the sake of God’s kingdom. You don’t have to be a pastor or full time church worker to do so.
But you do have to have a purpose. You need a raison d‘être (reason for being), or better yet, a reason for doing what you’re doing: purpose, meaning, significance. When that’s present the world is right-side-up and we can slay dragons. When it’s not there, we flounder and shuffle around in a weary malaise of purposelessness.
Recently this need has become apparent to Diane and me once again. We both serve in church-related work. We both engage in sharing the message of Jesus’ love. But even so we are finding the need to recapture a sense of purpose on a personal and intentional basis.
That involves connecting our identity, gifts and talents, with our specific context. We’ll look at that tomorrow.
Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. – 2 Corinthians 5:15