A Future Not Our Own
(Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw)
“We accomplish in our lifetime
only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise
that is God’s work.
That is what we are about.
We plant a seed that will one day grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations
that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realising that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning,
a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace
to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.”
A colleague read this to us the other week and something stirred in my heart. These words aren’t the whole prayer, simply extracts, the bits that moved me and which my soul responded a big Amen to.
They reminded me that God is a big God, and that I am very small in comparison and that as small as I may be, as small as each one of us in the grand scheme of the universe and this crazy adventure of life, we all have a part to play. I think what I loved most about these words is the part that talks about the seeds we plant, the seeds already planted, the foundations we lay and that yeast producing effects far beyond our capabilities.
So often I wonder whether I am significant, I need to find worth in what I am doing, in what I am producing, I question whether I am enough. Am I having any impact in the world I inhabit? Am I making enough of a difference? Am I loving people well enough? Am I alone in those questions? I am guessing possibly not and if I am well maybe I have just outed myself as being a complete nutcase.
There was a freedom in hearing those words. I can’t do it all. I am not meant to do it. I am just meant to do that little bit that was set aside for me, nothing more and nothing less. But who knows where each of our little bits will lead, of the potential and the possibilities.
Maybe I am just meant to walk part of someone’s journey with them, and then let them go for other people to pick up the next stages and maybe I will never know what impact my words or actions have had, if any. Or maybe you have laid the foundations in a piece of work or a cause and someone else will be the one to build it into something greater.
I guess that is the challenge of those words, of that prayer, it is a challenge of surrender and trust. Trusting that our little bits are part of a much bigger picture we often do not understand, a picture this side of heaven we will probably not even see.
How often do people come into my life, and by their words, their actions and their examples impact my life and yet I never say anything. I never let them know of the significance they have had in my life.
We may never see how the seeds we have planted will grow, or understand all those seeds that have already been planted way before we entered a particular story. We may simply be asked to play a small part and then walk on and let others take over or maybe we come in at the end. I love that, like a jigsaw, our lives are interconnected, we all do our thing and play our part, which is simply a piece of each other’s stories, and all those parts come together to form lives, stories, something much bigger than simply us on our own. I love that that is how it was created to be, all in it together. Those words moved my spirit in ways I can’t articulate well, in terms of what they said about community, and of humankind – about the power of us all doing our “something” and doing it well and the possibilities that come from that, with all our “somethings” added together. I warned you I wasn’t going to articulate that well!!
So, what is your “something”? What is the thing or the things you have been given – the calling, the gifting, the people, the character – that has been entrusted to you and how do you do that well? I guess those are questions we will always be asking and that those things will change in different chapters and seasons.
Alongside that prayer the other night I read these words from my devotional (DVO app) and for me the two pieces of writing flowed together.
“Love is always within our reach.”
“When you strip it all back – the fame, fortune, reputation, success, achievement, poverty, disease, failure, houses, government, wars, history, heroes, prisons, criminals…. the only thing left to see will be the love that has been given and the love that has been received.”
“It’s our love that defines us and leaves an eternal grove upon the earth.”
“When all is said and done, when we stand on the other side of eternity and the fog clears, and we can see clearly, I bet we’ll be astonished at how united and connected we all are. We’ll be able to see the deep and resounding effect our words and actions have had on others.”
“Love is the highest calling and most enduring legacy. It’s like water, it dribbles and leaks and pours into nooks and crannies that haven’t seen light for years if we let it flow.”
I want to be defined by the way I give and receive love. I want the “somethings” I have been given to be done to be done with love.
We may never know how the parts we play, the things we do, the words we speak, the way we are, the jobs we have done, the small acts and the big stuff impact, affect, change things but more and more I am learning that maybe we aren’t always meant to know, as long as we always trying to do these things with love, then we need to surrender and trust that someone bigger is the master builder and we are simply the workers, and each of those things will be threaded into stories, in lives, in beautiful ways.