Maybe it’s because I turned 40 last month and have been a bit more reflective of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and where I’m going, but lately I’ve found myself thinking about all the wonderfully inspiring people – people of some degree of notoriety (e.g. authors, professors, pastors, poets, etc.) – that, remarkably, happen to live in this same time of two score years, with, hopefully, at least, an equal amount of time left.
I suppose what I mean is that, given the 7,000 plus years of human history, my 40 years are insignificant, to say the least; and to think that these individuals that I admire and find so inspiring and illuminating just happen to live and write at this same time is simply remarkable (to me). I’m so very thankful for them and I consider them gifts; but then, at the same time, recognizing my own insignificance (in the grand scheme of things) I also recognize that even these men and women I admire are really insignificant – they will likely be remembered but a little longer than I.
In the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf tells Frodo “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” It is tempting to become consumed by projects and deadlines and “what-might-be” thoughts. The weeks and months slip by ever so quickly as each day that passes is another day closer to the next bible study, confirmation class, sermon, or paycheck. The next thing you know, you’re 40, and 41 is coming quickly. Ok, so this is getting existential – What is the meaning of life? (I know someone’s dying to say “42”.) Gandalf didn’t give an answer but a question. What will I decide to do with the time that is given me?
Well, I’m probably not going to be famous or rich. I’m probably always going to live paycheck to paycheck. Hopefully I’ll remain in fairly good health. I don’t even know where I’m going to be buried when I die. I am of just above average intelligence (B-). I am, by God’s design (it has to be His) a pastor, and not a great one at that. I know that I do have influence on a number of people’s lives, though I feel quite inadequate to meet their needs.
So, what am I going to do with the time that is given me? Ok, so I’m not ambitious; maybe I’m just lazy. I will be a father, a son, a pastor, and not to the best of my abilities (I simply know that I do not always do that), but in humility and repentance. I will try to practice the Christian virtues of love, mercy, forgiveness, charity, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, selflessness, humility, etc. I will do what I am called to do – when I don’t want to, when I don’t feel like it, when I doubt my efficacy or ability. I will continue to read and to study, to grow and to learn, to stand firm in my conviction while tolerating with gentleness those who disagree with me. I will make no ultimatums and will try not to capitulate.
I will pray the rote liturgy and rote prayers. I will read people who talk about the bible more than I read the bible (though those writers always get me digging deeper into the bible). I will be frustrated with people who clearly have greater gifts than me but seem to like people to acknowledge that.
God, I really need a father confessor. O Lord, hear my prayer.