So I’m back in my hometown of Placerville, California and as usual, I was intrigued to hear the Sunday message yesterday morning. It wasn’t what I expected. And after thinking about it, it still wasn’t speaking to me. So I did what any reasonable thinking man should do in times like this: play with his new puppy.
After that, it made sense in a big way. I’ll explain why in a roundabout way.
One thing (of many) I appreciate about Green Valley Community Church (GVCC) is they rotate between two pastors, which is great because we in the crowd get to hear different perspectives. This week the sermon was conducted by Larissa, student pastor and student ministries.
She was candid, funny, and oh-so-real, drawing her life experiences to her message at hand, titled Shift Your Focus. She talked about Baller Christians and Bus Stop Christians (it’s in the Bible somewhere I’m pretty sure). The ballers want all the shiny things, they are very much of this earth. In contrast, the bus stoppers can be found sitting on a bench waiting patiently for the Jesus Bus to get them out of this earthy mess.
But what if it? This debate goes way back. Many have even argued that religion has been used to sort of make people feel alright about being grossly exploited. I’m taking the Middle Ages where it was like, “Ok serf, give your King the best tomatoes and potatoes. Starvation is ok because the next life will be great.” Not cool, right?
Be in this world but not of it.
That’s great advice but what do I do with that?? On the other hand, having nice things and building a fun, successful life is not wrong. And Larissa said as much.
So what then, go full-blown Buddah? Ball out like a prince for a while, then eat a grain of rice a day and sleep on nails for a bit? Realize neither are making you feel great and then seek the middle ground? Moderation in all things? Get yourself a nice pair of Italian leather shoes while you wait in exquisite style at the bus stop? (my vote).
Nope. She gifted us with something real and actionable. An analogy.
“Have you ever left the country? What does customs ask as they check your passport…What is your purpose here and how long are you staying?”Larissa of GVCC
Whoa. Hey now, that’s heavy, Larissa.
My purpose? Hmmm, next question please. How long am I here for? Can’t say I’ve got the answer for that, either. Ugh.
These are Big Ideas. And so important. But not ones where a knee-jerk reply will do. Purpose has always, always been a big one for me. As a kid I remember nights looking up at the stars asking, “Why am I here? What am I supposed to do?” But nothing ever answered back….
….until maybe a few months ago. I was attending service at GVCC. The sermon was wrapping up, music was starting, and a voice in my head said Just talk to people. Go within. Tell the stories. I’m still working out the details, but I’m going with it.
There’s an interesting question that asks “If you had an envelope with the date of your death inside of it, would you open it?”
I would because my natural curiosity would surely get the best of me. But I don’t know if it would be helpful, I just don’t know. However, not knowing is precisely what keeps me in limbo. But it needs to stop. They say in the West we think we’ll live forever. On the surface at least. The soul knows, obviously, but we tuck death away so neatly that it’s just not a reality, until someone close to us passes away and it’s almost always a shock. Ditto for whatever diagnosis we will get that is the real beginning of the end.
Thankfully for some, like me, this can’t last. Being content without finding the deepest meaning and living a purposeful life. I started calling it a rebellion of the soul. And I’m seeing it in a number of people around me. The covid shut downs definitely helped us to lose faith in society, and therefore, be forced to find our own faith and meaning.
It feels like we are all searchers now. Seeking what nothing up to this point has been able to fill in a lasting way. I don’t have the answer. For me, finding God and facing myself has helped tremendously. But that’s only part of the answer. The next step, I think, is to find that purpose unique to me, and live it every single day. We each have one, I just know it. The catch is it has to come from within.
The trick, it seems, is to be aware of these big questions. Pray and meditate on them, for sure. But then let them go for a while and just focus on the good stuff in life, like taking a nap with your new puppy, River Styx.
The answers, they will come.