Tag Archives: now

Faithful with this moment

 As 2015 has begun, I’ve been filled with this desire to be faithful to God.  But what does that mean?

As I’ve reflected on all the uncertainty in my own life and the world, I continue to struggle with trusting God with the future and what is beyond my knowing.  When I picture the future, my wildest dreams still sometimes tend toward anxiety, and I begin to worry, doubt, fear, and breed resentment.  I know these are not faithful feelings, and I worry that I’m just not cut out for this life of faith.

Awning and lights in Paris, France.  All photos by Evan Schneider.
Awning and lights in Paris, France. All photos by Evan Schneider.

But I’ve also realized something.  When my daughter cries, I turn without thinking to wrap her in my arms.  When a student in front of me needs counsel, I listen intently and reply with carefully chosen words.  When those around me are hurting or in need, I lift them up in prayer, and I strive to serve them.

When it comes to one moment, I think I can be faithful.  I can be faithful with this moment rather than fearful of what I do not know.  And suddenly faithfulness becomes not something unattainable or fleeting, but a daily practice of breathing and walking with the God of this moment.  

A couple days ago I found myself saying to a tearful student in my office,  “I know at this moment, you have no idea what decision you will make in the future and how you will make it.  But you are a capable person.  You are doing everything you can to gather all the information and be prepared to make a good decision.  Therefore, I trust and believe that you will make a good one when the time  comes.”

The River Seine at night.
The River Seine at night.

I love saying those words.  

I love letting others know that when the world and uncertainty fill them with doubt and fear, there is reason to trust otherwise.  I love believing in a God who is invested so deeply in our lives, in making us capable, faithful people, rather than leaving us to our own devices.  And I love knowing that faithfulness isn’t just about some lofty goal or distant future, but is the stuff of now, of taking care of this moment, with God never far away.

Now, if I could only listen to my own advice…

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Your life starts now.

A month or so ago I heard an academic who’s written well-respected books, gotten tenure, traveled the world, and shot films say if she had it to do all over again she would have realized that her life wasn’t waiting to start after the dissertation, after she graduated from associate to full professor, after she got tenure, etc., etc., etc., but in fact, “your life starts now.”

This phrase isn’t just relevant to the academic world where we trick ourselves into thinking life and all that is good is marked by dissertations and tenure-track positions, but in all vocations, and the ministry that happens betwixt and between.  The words of those faithful brothers and sisters from my church this past weekend, proclaiming that they’d always been a church made me think about my own ministry, and the ways in which, I’ve always been ministering.

Now it doesn’t always look like archetypal ministry, but I’m guessing yours doesn’t either.  I’m guessing most ministry happens in snippets and soundbytes and sewers, not in pulpits and with pastors or priests.  We minister wherever we are and with what we have to one another, and the efficacy of that ministry isn’t dependent on our education, our status, or even our resources, but rather our reliance on the Spirit.

Sonoran Desert, Arizona.
Sonoran Desert, Arizona.  All photos by Evan Schneider.

But there’s another lesson in counter-cultural living, right?

Sometimes when people ask me what I’m really going to do with my life, when I finish these Ph.D. studies, or what the dream job I’m really aiming at looks like, and I can’t answer them, I feel afraid, embarrassed, and anxious.  But I’m learning, slowly but surely, to be so grateful and so secure in what God has given me in this life and who God is that I can live without certainty about the next step or a linear trajectory, and yet with great faith that God will provide for me and for others and nurture my call.

When my mother took me with all my heart problems to Mexico with the youth group in high school, she had reason to believe she should leave me home.  But if she had, I wouldn’t have felt the Spirit move in my heart in a familiar way but toward unfamiliar places, calling me to ministry on that US-Mexico border during college, and to Puerto Rico, Washington, DC, Princeton Seminary, China, and Princeton University.  My mother showed me first what it means to have faith in who God is rather than yourself, someone else, or logical processes and trajectories.

Yong River. Guangxi, Nanning.
Yong River. Guangxi, Nanning.

Living as though your life starts now often appears irresponsible, because the steps of your path are connected by the movement and provision of the Spirit rather than your own professional progression or enrichment.  But when you realize how much you’ve been given by that Spirit, how faithfully that Spirit has provided, and how meaningful it is to surrender the control we delude ourselves with, you get really grateful, glad, and confident.

So I’m learning when people ask me that snarky question, so what are you really going to do with your life? to smile with blessed assurance and to say confidently, “this is it, I’m doing it.”  There’s ministry enough for all of us if we can just find a way to live by the guidance of the Spirit, to live as though our lives start now.