27 November 2009

Facebook & Mother Teresa

Below is a reading response for my class with Dr. Garber on Monday mornings. In it, I am responding to his book, The Fabric of Faithfulness, and its call to develop a unique and sustainable worldview for God's creation (See this past post to learn about the class and Dr. Garber's book). As I begin to search for opportunities to act on God's vocational calling in my life, I am beginning to see the great importance of seeing this calling and my future through a persepctive that God has uniquely placed in front of me. This will become the lens through which I see God's kingdom in relation to a fallen world - to see where the secular and the sacred meet. So although it is recycled, here you go:

How can you tell if something is really important to this generation of the iWorld? Check their Facebook profile, of course! And one of the more recent additions to our main page gives us a convenient place to put our worldview for all the world to see. Right under your profile picture, there is a little box for you to sum up the whole of your existence in a few short sentences. Here is what my little box reads: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

I found this quote while reading the writings of Mother Teresa in college, and over the past few years, I have found that it rings true in most aspects of my life. Her words have become a major lens through which I see the world and my calling within it. In light of Mother Teresa’s words, my question upon reading Fabric of Faithfulness has become this: how will I connect my behavior for the rest of my life around a deep understanding and conviction that my life is not my own? First and foremost, my life belongs to Christ. Every action, thought, and breath of my life must be eternally and seamlessly interwoven into His heart and Kingdom. I am confident that this is how my life ought to be…and I am also confident it will take me a lifetime of wrestling to truly understand and live this out daily. At the same time, I must remember that my life belongs and is accountable to His creation as well. It does not belong to a political party or an intellectual ideology, but to human beings created and loved by God. It belongs to those I love – and to those I do not even like a little bit; it belongs to those I know as a best friend – and to those living across the world, who I may never know. My life will be an exercise in recognizing that my actions do not exist within a vacuum of my own experiences and ideas, but within a world in which, as Byron Borger puts it, “how we live our lives affects the big picture.”

As I read Byron’s account of his life and struggle to understand his vocation in a way that would “make sense of life as he faced the challenges of new ideas and new relationships,” I was struck by this same understanding that I believe Mother Teresa had: even the smallest actions are “part of God’s movement to bring restoration and healing to the whole wide world.” I may not always know what I believe when it comes to a certain political position or intellectual theory, but I know there will always be a connection between every one of my seemingly insignificant actions, and God’s great plan for His creation. It is the idea that my actions today will not only affect myself, but also my children and their children after them. And, God willing, my understanding of my vocation will not only affect my own life, but also the lives of the people I want to serve in Africa or India or the Middle East. We are not living for ourselves, and although God does not need us, He chooses to allow us to be a part of His plan to make all things new – so we better take that commission seriously!

Whenever I come back to Mother Teresa’s words, I am reminded that not only do my actions have significant value in God greater vision, so too does an understanding that my life is not my own. The two connect in a way that is subtle yet essential within the lens through which I see the world. Much too often I am able to forget all the brokenness simply because it is not right in front of me everyday. I have the luxury of being a woman with rights that much of my sex cannot even dream of; I have the luxury of living without fear of dying from a preventable and treatable disease; I have the luxury of food. Because I am not constantly being reminded of the pain and suffering of my fellow human beings I forget that the whole world does not have it as great as I do. It makes me marvel at my own shortsightedness. If we were always aware that all humanity does indeed belong to each other in such a way that binds us to one another’s deepest destinies in the eyes of our Creator – if we always remembered that – how different would life be? Would we have racial injustice? Oppression? War? If we saw the inherent human-ness in each other instead of living with this “us versus them” mentality we are so caught up in, how would the world change?

Of course, this idea is not a panacea. We will always disagree, but I do not believe that our understanding of this idea lives in conflict with the fact that we have to continuously stand on the truth of God’s world. Why do we continue to love and respect our friends despite our disagreements? Because we know one another and so are able see the dignity and integrity inherent within the other. What if, in even our fiercest of enemies, we saw this same dignity as one created by God? I am not saying this idea will necessarily fix everything, but it is one that I will invest my life in understanding and living out on a daily basis. In my mind it begins to flesh out the question, “who is your neighbor?” and it convicts me to always be looking deeper and remember that starving and orphaned children in Africa are not so different from me; women in the Middle East wearing a hijab are not so different from me; in many ways, even the woman who sells her body on the street is not so different from me.

07 November 2009

Reading the Word and the World Together

One of my first classes of the semester is one called Reading the Word and the World Together. It is taught by my friend, Steve Garber (the one who got me here in the first place!), and, in essence, it a class designed to help us see, as Steve puts it, the place where the sacred and the secular meet. Through it, we are already beginning to see how the world is not a series of dichotomized categories separating the holy from the brokenness, but rather that creation and everything in it is in a state of “glorious ruins” to quote C.S. Lewis. We are living in a constant, flowing state of both of these elements and we are beginning to realize that although we are fighting against it, all of creation is crying out to the glory of God. Steve talks a lot about his friends and colleagues who are practicing, what he calls, “common grace for the common good;” who are striving to heal a broken world in ways that may not always be deemed explicitly Christian, but nevertheless, speak to the glory and the coming Kingdom of Christ. In fact, one organization he talks a lot about in light of this topic is my former employer (and great saving grace!), the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust!

In class, we are essentially trying to understand what God’s vision is for His creation, how we can view ourselves and our place on earth through this lens, and how we can live in a world that is at the same time, sacred and secular; a world that is both glorifying to God and horribly broken. One major avenue of developing this worldview comes within the nature of storytelling - hence our class name, Reading the Word and the World Together. We began by reading narratives on our most basic and fundamental elements of identity as human beings: our sexuality. God created man and women to be distinct and unique from one another for a specific reason, and although our place as sexual beings has been greatly distorted and perverted since the Fall, our sexuality is still at the root of our very being. We long for intimacy to our very core; to know and be known in a way that cannot be expressed anywhere else. Next, we went on to explore the nature of a developing worldview. In light of this, we read Dr. Garber's wonderful book, The Fabric of Faithfulness. Through his own insight and the insights of his friends whose stories we read, we learned of the great value in developing a worldview that will not only drive our unique calling in the world, but will also sustain us throughout our entire lives. Finding a lens through which to view God's creation will not mean anything unless it is a worldview that will remain sustainable past our idealistic years as young-adults and into our cynical years of middle age. This lesson of developing a sustainable worldview is one which I feel I will be continuously learning throughout my entire life.