“Perhaps my life need not be, in fact, so manifestly shriveled and mediocre if I began to act as if what Jesus said were actually true.”
– Gary A. Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission, from his book, Just Courage: God’s Great Expedition for the Restless Christian
As I read last night those words jumped off the page, as if they were written just for me, as if the entire publishing industry had conspired to write, publish, and market a book simply so that one line from that one page of that one book would someday find its way to me.
As you know, I am a woman of many ideas and very little follow through. Not all of my ideas are good ones, but I’ve come up with some darn good ideas over the years.
That’s not to say that I’m not dependable; give me a job and a deadline and most of the time I’m right on track. I say most of the time, because more and more lately I find myself asking, “Why bother? Who cares? What’s the point?”
I have forgotten one of the most simple truths of life: I was created by God for a purpose.
For years, I’ve had a passage written by Cardinal John Henry Newman taped to the wall next to my desk. It reads in part:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next … I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.”
It’s been a while since I worked in my office; I’ve lately become fond of my laptop and the kitchen table. And when the quote came to mind today, I found that the paper had fallen off the wall and was crumpled behind a bookshelf.
Much like my life, metephorically, speaking.
It’s not the first time I’ve been through this. Fear is a strong unmotivator – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of blood clots and road rage and bird attacks. It keeps you safe and at home. It’s why every January I begin the new year with wonderful writing ideas and plans and end the following December in my pajamas, wondering how I managed to waste 365 complete days.
I get up, sure. I volunteer. I do a few good deeds and meet deadlines. But is that all there is?
In his book, “Just Courage,” Gary A. Haugen likens it to going on a hike and staying in the visitor’s center, choosing to heed the warning signs rather than attempt the climb. Sure, the hike might be dangerous and difficult and challenging, and you might return exhausted and covered in scratches and bruises. But what stories you would have to tell!
He writes, “One of the biggest regrets of my life, I think, is having a sense of having gone on the trip but missed the adventure.”
Reading that last night, I realized that I don’t want to have that regret. I’m 46 years old. I’m not young, but I’m not aged, either. I have decades of experience and knowledge and contacts that I have not accumulated for naught. I know my strengths – I am a good writer and my forte is telling people’s stories – and I know my weaknesses – I’m easily distracted and I fear much.
It’s an unsettling feeling, I confess, this idea of time passing and wasted, and one that I had already been dwelling on.
I read another book this week, “Alphabet Killer”, about the double initial murders that took place in Rochester, NY in the 70s. It’s a terrible book, I’m sorry to say, mainly regurgitating newspaper reports and offering nothing new. No interviews with family, friends, no history of the city then and now. The author isn’t from here and brought nothing to the table about the emotions an entire city was feeling at the time. It was a book with correct facts, but otherwise very disappointing.
As you know, that left me wondering if I could have done a better job, having grown up in Rochester and understanding that many girls who are now women my age were affected.
That lead me to search for other unsolved murders in the area, and I was led straight to the case of Jane Doe in Caledonia.
In November 1979, the body of a young girl was found in a field in Caledonia, NY. The girl had been shot and dragged into the field, and then shot again. To this day, she remains unidentified and her case unsolved. I spent time going through websites for armchair detectives, a few old police posters asking for help, and have been haunted by a post mortem photo of the girl, who was between the ages of 13 and 19 when she died.
I thought about how her life had been wasted, her potential and gifts left like trash in that field along with her lifeless body. And as her case has simmered in my brain this week, I was struck by the thought that I’m no different. Sure, I’m living and breathing. But like Jane Doe, I have spent years lifeless, metephorically speaking.
You know I’ve deemed 2011 the Year of Adventure, vowing to try something new every month for the whole year. But what if my idea of adventure and God’s idea of adventure are not the same thing.
I don’t want to live a mediocre life. And I want to live as if I truly believe what Jesus taught is true, profoundly, absolutely true. I’ve just become lazy, tired, fearful. I’ve been more concerned about failing rather than trying.
I don’t have any answers about the things I’ve been thinking about, other than something I’ve read again and again and again in the Bible:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
– Micah 6:8
After all, what more adventure could you ask for?