“The day will come, after we have harnessed the energies of space, wind, tides and gravity, that we will harvest the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.” French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin.
It is the last day of the year, as I sit down, here in my kitchen to write. The year has come and gone and I am reflecting and bridling a guardedly joyous perspective. Every year I make a personal commitment to read the Bible through from cover to cover. In some years I also commit to reading the book of Proverbs an additional 11 times because of my never satiated quest for wisdom. I have just completed my daily reading of the scriptures and this reading was my final reading for the year. I am momentarily blissful. There are few things in life that give me a greater sense of accomplishing something radically right, than keeping my commitment to reading the Bible through, each year.
The intense satisfaction of this moment posed on the precipice of a new-year, urges me to consider a single verse that beckons forward. The verse is found in Ecclesiastes 11:1. It says, “Cast your bread upon the water and after many days it will come back to you.”
Now, gentle reader, I ask you to ponder this metaphor with me. How in the world can soggy, moldy bread float and retract? I bake our family’s bread, each week. I’ve used the same sour dough starter ever since our beautiful, first born, Ashley Beth was a tiny baby. Ashley has now grown into a blossoming young adult and she and her fine husband Jarrod have two bright-eyed sons named William and Henry Ashley, along with our other family members, enjoys the familiar scent and flavor of “our” sour dough, whole-wheat loaves. But, alas, even my golden-topped buns won’t float and no self-respecting turtle in the farm pond would allow even a morsel to float back to shore. It is possible that the metaphor requires me to think beyond the literal and to ask how God would have me to, “cast my bread” in 2016. Furthermore, it invites us to wonder whether a real “fire” of discovery awaits the casting.
A significant spark in my consid
eration of this challenge is a remembrance of a lunch conversation that I once had with Parker Palmer. Here was a man who had done his mental, emotional, and spiritual homework. Parker is an educator, a communicator, and a kindred spirit. His brilliant little book, Let Your Life Speak, suggests that if we let our lives speak and if we live authentically we can find fulfillment.
In that text Parker wrote that, “Our deepest calling is to grow into our authentic selfhood.” This I postulate to you dear friend, is hard work. There are confounding questions, complexities of circumstances, and challenges to the human condition that make even the smallest identification of selfhood daunting. But, what if Parker is right? What if he joins Shakespeare in urging us, “to thine own self be true”? Or even more compelling is the verse “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life?” Proverbs 4:23. Oh! Woooooh is me! There we are back to flowing and water again. How can a seeking servant grow or float or bake herself into authentic selfhood? If this were a volume instead of a column, I might attempt to answer that question. However, this is a column and for the moment, it will suffice to say that my lunch date and the writer of Proverbs, offered truth. We are each called to be ourselves as God designed us, to cultivate our inner hearts, and authenticities so that we can live out the callings upon our lives.
Now then, that idea of calling brings up another spark. Frederick Buechner once said, “Vocation is where your deep gladness meets the world’s deepest need.” What is it that we should be about? How should we (striving to be authentic people) then live? What is our work? I invite you to join me in thinking of your passions and the tasks that really feel “right” to you. Is there a possibility you are uniquely designed and that God has a specific calling for you, beyond the mundane? Can we truly become world-changing people doing life-changing work? Maybe we will find that it is incredibly empowering and wonderfully comforting to live a life that is built on such a solid and rich foundation as God’s purposing of us.
If you are being an honestly authentic you and I am being an honestly authentic me, and both of us are following the passions God has placed in our lives, what will we accomplish? What can this possibility for 2016 look like? The answer, friend, I think is “fire”. Maybe it is the fire of love expressed as bread burning across the water.