I recently went to a training event. To be honest I was kind of dreading it. A strange place with no friends, and sessions that began at 8:00 and went to 5:00. I expected too much information, dryly presented, and coming back to the room afterwards exhausted and lonely. What I found was exactly the opposite. The presentations engaging, the dynamics such that I made friends. By the end of each day I was energized and would go out with new friends to share conversation and meals. But, the most surprising and impactful thing were the presenters. They were so committed to what they were doing. For them it was a calling that they had sacrificed for. They continued to improve as opposed to moving on to something else. They continued to care and work out of a place in the deepest depths of their being. What I found was that they had something I was missing.
I want that. I want to live out of that place, to have that fire in the belly. To live and move and have my being out of the deepest depths of who I am. I think most of us would like that, and yet I think most of us fail to do so. As I’ve sat with these thoughts many things have flashed through my mind. The first being, I wonder if there is that kind of depth to me. Most of what I live out of is so shallow and superficial, and I never even noticed it until I saw what I was missing in someone else. And, I don’t know how to manufacture it. You don’t just create a true depths of the being calling. You can’t suddenly add depths of layers to who you are. Then I began to realize that the deep penetrating things within me are the things I spend the most time trying to avoid. Or, I try to indirectly chip away at them through the shallow things. But, if you can keep it shallow enough, then you’re never really vulnerable. But, you also never truly live out of that place because you’re out of touch with it. I began to wonder why that is. I mean, I know part of it is that in going to the depths of your being is uncomfortable, you have to step into your deepest pains, your deepest disappointments, and your deepest fears.
The problem is, I don’t think we know how to do that. We live in a culture inundated by the superficial. We’re bombarded by advertisements and constantly told to solve deep problems with quick fixes – food, clothing, shopping, stuff, self-help, television, movies, entertainment, etc. And by and large the church doesn’t help. We’re so concerned about crappy things that don’t matter like cussing (the mere fact that I didn’t use an expletive there says a lot). How can you get in touch with your deepest pain when you’re not allowed to convey it in a way that has the raw reality of what’s truly going on inside of you? When you’re not allowed to be dysfunctional enough to act out against your deepest pains. Instead we tell people to give whatever our problem is to God. Which can be a good thing when done well, when we’ve done the hard work of wrestling with it and with God about it, finally coming to a place where we can really let go of it. But, it can also be more avoidance, another way to deny what’s really going on inside of you. So, we dress up, put on our smiles, and give all of our problems to God or so we think. What we actually do is lay them down at the alter, then secretly leave the back door to the deepest part of our soul open for them to crawl back in without us even realizing. We secretly carry them around, avoiding the fact that they’re there because supposedly we gave them to God. And we go on, with our shallow and superficial lives wondering why we haven’t found that calling that enables us to live out of the depths of our being.
I think this is also the story of Jacob. Finally he confronts his biggest mistakes and deepest fears, and as he does so he wrestles with God and with man (himself). On the other side he finds a new identity and becomes a patriarch of the faith. Maybe living out of these depths is what Mother Teresa meant when she said you can do no great things, only small things with great love. But, small things done with great love change the world. My hope and prayer is to do this hard work and get in touch with the deepest parts of me. To find the fire in my belly, and fan the flames to where I hear the clear specific call of God on my life just as I have seen experienced in others. May that also be my prayer for you.