November 19th, 2005


Life questions

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

—James 1:22-25

Though it seems odd since I work for a church, I keep being faced with the question, "Since I am a Christian, what am I supposed to be doing with my time, my energy, my resources, my life?" On the one hand, I could talk with a friend about some answers for hours. On the other, in my moments alone, I seem to have no idea.

I'm glad Annette brought it up again on Friday, because I think it's been lurking under the surface for me for a while, and I've been alternately trying to answer it, silence it, run from it, and kill it for just as long. How is my life, in the being and in the doing, fundamentally different than if I were not a Christian? There are small and medium differences, but in the larger scope, my life often looks pretty much the same as any of my neighbors, regardless of our faith—we all fill our non-vocational life with diversion after diversion. Some of mine may have a "Christian" flavor, but that's not a fundamental difference at all.

It sounds like a big mystery when it isn't—that is, the what of the Christian life is spelled out in no uncertain terms. It's the how that's harder for me to comprehend—how do I get from the life I'm leading to the transformed life Scripture calls me to? What's the texture of it? What's an average, everyday day supposed to look like?

There are possibilities I've rejected thus far, sometimes dabbling a bit before leaving them behind. I'm not up for a life of parroting Bible verses back and forth with other Christians while sketching out evangelism plans. I've given up stacking my shelves with "Christian" books, CDs, attire, and merchandise from the local Family Christian Bookstore. I pretty much walked away from politics and "the culture war" when I started seeing equal measures of bitterness, misguidedness, and hypocrisy on all sides. Navel-gazing with words like "authentic," "transparent," "story," and "journey" has revealed mostly bellybutton lint.

There's always the big stuff, and it always overwhelms me: injustice and poverty, oppression and abuse, compassion and mercy. Again, I can talk for hours about how to walk this out, but the reality of it finds me paralyzed. Instead, I search for the next DVD to put in my Blockbuster queue.

There are a few things I know, and maybe I need to camp out with them more. Other parts of this section of James hit home (being steadfast, receiving the Word with humility, putting away wickedness, being quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger). Praying for God to shape and change my heart is big; waiting in faith and hope for Him to do so is equally necessary. Also, I have to personally (as opposed to just professionally) be an active, committed part of His church—among the people of His choosing, who are hoping in the same God. They reflect Him to me, and we reflect one another so that we do not forget our faces. And somehow, I have to be open to serving this world, regardless of how broken it is.

Clearly, I don't have answers, and I could easily be wrong about anything or everything I think I know already. There's just a restless dissatisfaction that calls for more attention than I've been giving it.