Poetry in Motion
So another year has passed into the history books, and you’re another year older. Look back at where you were when 2012 ended and 2013 began: what has the passage of time made of you – or rather, what have you made of it? What have you done with this most recent chapter of your life? What have you accomplished?
Because you were created to accomplish something. You exist for a purpose.
We all, Americans in particular, live in a world that has been described as performance oriented, “dog eat dog,” a world were “winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” The vast majority of people don’t care how you feel; they care what you do.
We don’t like to believe God takes that attitude, but he does – not to the idolatrous extreme of our fellow man, no, but he is very much invested in our performance.
Do you object? Dig back into Scripture, then, and reflect on the Israelites’ commission to possess the Holy Land, and divine displeasure with their failure to do so in a timely and appropriate fashion. Reread the Great Commission. There are literally hundreds of examples in the Bible of the Lord telling his people to do things in his name (that is, in his authority) and for his name’s sake (for his reputation). Both collectively and individually, the Holy One has given and still gives us tasks to accomplish, and it should be our ambition to discover and to do them.
Ambition has a bad reputation in certain circles, even within Christendom, but it is never condemned in the Bible. What it instead censures is selfish ambition (e.g. Galatians 5.20, Philippians 2.3, James 3.16), two words in English but a single word in the original Greek meaning “electioneering” or “intrigue.” Whereas that is to be shunned, ambition, in the positive sense, is praised.
Do you remember the little tempest that erupted two years ago with the publication of Amy Chua’s book on authoritarian parenting? The self-professed “Tiger Mother” has a new book, to be released next month, on success and achievement. She and her co-author have found that those who do the best have three traits in common: self-control, feelings of superiority, and simultaneously (and counter-intuitively) feelings of inferiority.
Self-control is a Biblical virtue, of course – but would it surprise you to think the other two are as well?
You ARE a superior being, if the Lord has adopted you into his family and his Spirit has come to reside within you. A child of the King of the Universe, you are, nonetheless, an inferior being, prone to disobey your King, lapsing back to your old ways, a worm who brings nothing of intrinsic value to his Kingdom. As the inimitable C.S. Lewis put it in Prince Caspian,
“I was wishing that I came of a more honourable lineage.”
“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
Any virtue can become a vice if it is taken to an obsessive extreme. Don’t allow these two to become pathological. Egos too inflated or deflated eventually become tyrants. Kept in balance, staying mindful that you are simultaneously nothing and something, both worthy and worthless, honest humility and righteous pride aid you to be and do what you have been called to be and do.
It is not for no reason that the word “vocation” (that is, the work you do) derived from the Latin word for “calling” – which in our culture now strictly refers to religious service. An often overlooked part of the Protestant Reformation was the exaltation of ordinary labor. Calvin, Luther, Zwingli and others all affirmed in their own ways what the Apostle Paul so eloquently wrote in the second chapter of Ephesians:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We do not work towards our salvation; it is a gift none deserve and none can earn. But the gift, once received, compels us to work – in fact, the lack of any such a compulsion may indicate the gift has never been received at all.
Interestingly, as selfish ambition is in contrast to godly ambition, just so in the Bible “works” and “good works” are opposed to each other. Furthering the word play, “workmanship” in the Greek is poiema, from whence we get our word poem.
What is a poem? It is a composition, something made but not sloppily or hastily; it requires thought and artistic skill. A poem, as the unabridged dictionary puts it, “is characterized by great beauty of expression.”
What is a poem? You are. You are God’s handiwork, his beautiful verse writ in blood and bone and sinew, his creative artwork intended to bring him praise. You are living, breathing poetry in motion, foreordained – mark again the Apostle’s belief – to be someone and do something that makes a difference in this life.
God made you on purpose. Have you discovered what that purpose is (or better, “what those purposes are” since there are probably several things he wishes you to accomplish)?
Again, a year has passed. What have you accomplished? And what yet lies before you to accomplish? Will you bring glory to God in 2014? How?