Monday, November 07, 2016

What Makes You Fully Alive?

I've reached my mid-life.

This knowledge didn't come progressively. Rather, it seems to have taken hold of me in the night.

A peaceful night's rest became consumed with one line of thinking, "Holy cow! I'm 44. How did this happen?"

I realize some people mark this milestone with a new sports car. I'm still content with my Honda.

Others might tip-toe into other forms of temptation. I've thankfully kept my feet planted.

But I am asking a lot of questions these days.

How do I want to spend this one, perfect life?

What mark do I most want to leave on this world?

How are my 24 or so remaining professional years to be most faithfully shared with the world around me?

I have come to realize that the more time I ask myself these questions, the more alive I become. There's something extraordinary about inviting your heart to ponder what makes it beat and sometimes skip a beat while asking your mind how much it's currently being stretched and how far you want to stretch it.

In the midst of my questions, I have also been reminded how many people around me are asking similar questions.

One of the early questions we ask children is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" We find delight in their responses that seem to include every possibility under the sun.

When we are in high school, we talk with high school guidance counselors and complete different surveys designed to help us find the right place or forum in which to continue our education.

Some of us then go to college where we enroll in a few courses in hopes of being exposed to conversations that will help us select our major. We meet with an advisor, some of whom are more gifted than others, who helps us chart our class course.

But many of us found our first jobs by luck or circumstance and not any of the above.

For me, it was meeting Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail in 1992, an interaction that led me to Washington as a White House intern in 1994 and then as a Congressional staffer. Few courses, if any, prepared me for this journey.

But life and its interactions did.

I love leadership. I love making a difference in the lives of others. I love politics - probably more than policy. I love being in the city. I love diversity. I love people. And, I love helping people become more fully alive.

These loves led me to accept my next invitations - personally and professionally - as I got more involved in my local church on Capitol Hill and then continued to apply for different jobs in Washington only to find myself later enrolling in seminary. A love of my seminary led to my returning to become its Director of Admissions. And then a conversation with a mentor opened the space for me to return to Washington to become the pastor of Mount Vernon Place.

It doesn't matter how old we are. Life continues to happen - in strange and hard, obvious and glorifying, routinized and transformational ways. Why, then, do we stop talking about vocation as we grow older? Why do we too often assume that people who are in one vocation at age 30 should remain in that same field at age 50? While some stories of God's call that are recorded in scripture happen when a person is a child, many of them take place when a person is at work, doing their thing, only to find God leading them in a new way.

Abraham Heschel wrote that we should "Live your life like a work of art."

Iranaeus of Lyon said, "The glory of God is manifest in a person fully alive."

Fredrick Beuchner suggested, "The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." (All of these quotes are taken from Mark Yaconelli's book, Wonder, Fear, and Longing.)

How is your life a work of art? How is it bringing beauty to the community?

What makes you fully alive? How much time are you spending doing what makes you feel this way?

What is your deep gladness? What deep hungers do you see in the world around you? How can you combine the two?

As a pastor, I'm recommitting myself to providing space for such conversations in our congregation. I know this intentional journeying with others is a part of my call that I have been neglecting and also something we need. I'm also committing to letting go of some things so I can invest more fully in what makes my heart sing and has the biggest impact on our community.

What would you do if you could do anything with your one, precious life?

What would make you more fully alive?

What's stopping you?