I’m confronted lately with the question of what God wants me to do. Turns out, it’s not a question of receiving a to-do list and then checking of all the items on the list. Actually, we are given lists. Our lists look very similar to the lists of those who are on similar pathways in life. We have a terrible tendency to compare our lists with theirs, and measure ourselves as being far less grand, impressive, and perfect than our fellow travelers on the road. It can become a kind of contest, diverting our focus from the task at hand and worse, from the people we’re called to love, and away from the Person on whom our focus should always rest. Turns out, our calling is not actually the checklist.
So how do you know what to do without a checklist? You have to find out what it is God has called you to do. Or perhaps a better way of putting it would be to say that you have to find out who God is calling you to be. And really, there is a checklist there too. It’s the same for everyone. Several actually. But they’re not to-do lists. They’re more of a set of measurement tools. Like a barometer or compass to find out if you’re on the right path or in the right state. They check who you are, and set the foundation without which you can’t move on to your unique, irrevocable, God-given calling.Those check lists are the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Fruits of the Spirit, the virtues, and the vices.
But the greatest thing on those lists is Love. So if you’re short on time, start with the love of God and the love of neighbor. All the other lists naturally pour out from, and become clear through these. So we have love. Elizabeth Goudge said once through a character in one of her books, something like, “It doesn’t matter what we do in this life, so long as we do it as a vessel of God’s love.” That’s always stuck with me.
We’re called to Love. We’re called to be loved, and we’re called to give love. We’re not just called to it, but we’re made for love. Form follows function. And we’re actually designed by God, our Creator, our Loving Father, Who himself is Love, to be loved by Him, to live in His love, and to become a channel of His love to others, and so to love one another.
So then what do we do? What do we do with all this time we’re given every day? In between the sleeping, the eating, the cleaning, the dressing and the taking care of ourselves and each other, these creaturely busy goings on that are so necessary to sustaining our very lives, these activities which themselves can be transformed into acts of beautiful love, what do we do after these?
The answer starts with the moment just prior to your conception, in the mind and heart of God. It starts with a twinkle in His eye. A Divine idea. At that moment, you are thought of in completeness, as only God can conceive and completely know a person. He knows who you are, whom He is making, why, for what purpose. And He has a plan. A beautiful beautiful scheme. You are made with love, you are made in love, you are made for love, and you are made to love. Each one is imbued with a unique set of characteristics, unique gifts, a unique mind, and then placed into unique circumstances.
And each is also given a chilling device. It is a device which would seem to break the whole thing. We’re given a frightening power called free will. We’re given the power to choose to be this which God envisioned, or not. To love or not. Love is not love which is not given by the complete will of the giver. So without this device called free will, the whole thing cannot exist.
But once we’ve arrived at love, after any one of the many battles is over, and free will has turned into a weapon which wins out in favor of love, we realize that we were never left alone with this tool, and with our tendency to choose poorly. All along we’ve been carried by the Holy Spirit. Not left fighting alone, but given the best chances to win. The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us, to protect us, and to shine His light on our path. If we follow this light, we become the beloved person whom God created us to be. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, infuses us with his being, making us into the perfect version of our self He intended us to be.
And so we yearn for our God. We want to know Him, love Him, serve Him. We also want to see what He sees when he looks at us now, and also what he saw when then, when he first thought us up and made us. We want to see the cup he designed for us drink, the cup He designed to fill to overflowing for us.
Sometimes we think our cup must be a big one, because we admire people who have big cups, and we want to be like them. We want others to be impressed with our hard work and great accomplishments, just like we’re impressed with theirs. We think that must be the thing in life to go for. The thing that results in hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Most of our cups are little. And all of our cups get filled all the way. It actually better to live a simple life in service to God. Most of God’s humble servants, His beloved children, aren’t given earth shattering tasks to do.
It’s good to be content. It’s best not to compare my small cup to cups I perceive to be large. If I am doing what is set before me, and doing it with love, it is enough. Attention is better spent on loving others than on how great our accomplishments are.
So I still wonder sometimes, what has God given me to do, or who has God made me to be? I still feel confused and lost about this at times. I am a mom, a wife, a teacher (because I homeschool my 6 children), and a homemaker. I love my husband, our children, our home, our friends and family so dearly. That’s enough right? Yes.
But within all that are the ways my soul responds to the universe and finds God, and sees Him and knows Him. I am small. I am like a tiny person with a tiny little thread reaching out into the vastness of space to find the loving God to find Him and tie my thread from him to me. It finds Him in goodness, beauty, truth, stories, art, and even music.
Here is a story about music. Maybe a little key to my own answer.
Music sometimes opens my soul, my heart, my mind, and my life before me all at once, and I see the story before me. I was recently listening to the song, “Such Great Heights” by the Postal Service. I was exercising at the time and so my own striving became part of the song for me. In my current state of introspection, I could see my marriage being described in the song. I’ve always related our romance to this song, but this time there was a new element being described. In the world we live in, having children is not regarded by all as a thing to be celebrated, congratulated, and called beautiful, but some see it as a thing to be feared and even pitied. Strangers of this variety are often ready to share their dismay at the sight of our beautiful brood. There are also many wonderful strangers who share their delight in seeing our incredibly blessed family. There’s a line repeated in “Such Great Heights” that goes “They will see us waving from such great heights, ‘Come down now”, they’ll say.” Each time the line was repeated I saw a distinct memory of a person inviting us to “come down” from all this joy of having children. There was the lady in the Hotel at Galveston Island, who thought she’d be clever and ask if we knew how this happened, she got a response which shocked her more than she shocked us, and we got a good laugh out of it. There was the doctors casually asking if I’d like to have my tubes tied while they had me open at the time of the c-section for our daughter’s birth. I was horrified, and replied just as casually, “No thank you, we love our children.” There was the nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit, who had briefly stepped in to help attend to our 2 year-old son who was recovering from having a brain tumor removed from his head, and who thought it would be obvious to ask if he must have been a mistake, since he was our fourth. “No, he was not a mistake.” And no, we will not come down. We will never, never, never come down.
Maybe sometimes our calling is to just keep doing what we’re doing. To listen for God, to watch for God, and to learn to be content, to trust, and to not worry. After all, we’re His beloved children, and He is our beloved Father, will He not provide for us?