Christin Bothe, Emmaus Scholar, 2015-2016
If you want me to put it simply, the biggest lesson I’ve learned, or had reaffirmed, through this last semester is as follows: It isn’t about me. No matter how much encouragement I may get from professors, or how many opportunities I get presented with, or how many people need my help, it doesn’t change the reality of my existence. The truth is sweet, simple and yet horribly hard to cling to. The truth is that I was put on this earth to “worship God and enjoy Him forever,” to sacrifice my hands and feet so that they might be used to glorify a purpose much greater than one I could muster up on my own. 1 And when my life enters into that framework, it is hard to avoid the implications it has on my interactions with the ideas of vocation, community, and shalom. Life looks quite different when God’s causes are cast as the vision statement – the ways I will spend my time change, the people I look to spend that time with change, and the standards I have for these relationships change.
In regards to vocation, God has been at work sowing seeds in my heart to flee from the path I had always assumed I was destined to. Sure, I genuinely believe that we need Christians everywhere – we need them in our private prep schools, we need them in our government, and we need them in our public businesses. We need them to have credibility and a voice and integrity, and we need them to have their eyes fixed on the places and people that they often won’t have time to be with themselves. However, I believe these are the very people the Lord has called to be my kingdom building partners, because of the voice they might project on behalf of the people I hope to serve alongside. Boesek and DeYoung, in Radical Reconciliation, helped me put words to these developing desires when they wrote:
“Reconciliation emerges from the margins and not from the centers of political or religious power.”2
At first I had taken their words as a call for us all to flee to the forgotten inner cities, the run-down rural areas, and the war-torn villages on the other side of the world; and, frankly, I was a little confused when I spoke with friends who felt called to pockets of political power and influence. Before too long, the Lord graciously unveiled a larger story to me. In this story, there are people who enter into these seemingly hopeless places, but then work with those in different spheres to usher in a fuller, more wholesome redemption. These people I dream of serving some day are exactly the people who will save me. They will save me from wandering towards purposes of my own, they will save me from knowing God’s power only from my own worldview, and the will remind me of this simple truth: It isn’t about me.
It’s funny, or maybe it isn’t, how my new understanding of vocation has already intersected with my new understanding of community and shalom. In reexamining the meaning of vocation, I find that I am, indeed, called to a life of community and shalom. This community is what weaves together work for the Kingdom, and it is exactly what this work for the Kingdom creates. As I am called to seek God’s vision and not my own, I am reminded of the paradox presented in Matthew 20:16: “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This piece of Scripture has been used in many contexts, but I can’t help but to think of how it might apply to this question of community: If I have been gifted with nimble hands and quick feet, should I not used them to run to the back of the pack and help move them forward, instead of running far ahead and getting lost? I might think I am sacrificing so much of myself, but truly I am gaining everything by embracing a life of being “last.” Because when I am reminded of God’s purposes and shed my own, He reminds me that He is making all things new, He is molding us together for a life of equality, and that means that my privilege is, in fact, just as unjust as their oppression. It is in community with different cultures, different classes, different ages, different generations, that we find Christ and we find the path to becoming His body, His bride – His purpose for us. It is in this union, that those below me and those above me will unite to remind me of this simple truth: It isn’t about me.
And all of this talk leads me to Shalom. All of this journeying leads us to a peace we’ve never known, an equality that we’ve never understood, and a life we were created for. Christ has entered into our brokenness so that we might have hope for a fully redeemed, fully renewed, fully reconciled life with him and with each other. A life where the rich and the poor, the thief and the hero, the lion and the lamb, will not just co-exist but will, together, be nestled into our God’s great love and grace.
This life will not come easy, for “peace is always the fruit of justice, which is attained only through suffering and sacrifice,” but oh, will this life be worth it. 3 This suffering and sacrifice, and the joy it produces will, once again, remind me of this simple truth: It isn’t about me.
Photo credit: “https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)
- A. W. Tozer, and James L. Snyder, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship (Ventura, Calif.: Regal, 2009), 28. ↩
- Allan Boesak, and Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2012), 155. ↩
- Orlando E. Costas, Christ outside the Gate: Mission beyond Christendom (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1982), 32. ↩