What I’m Reading Today: Matthew 3
Have you ever had the experience of having a long time goal that propelled you for years suddenly be realized? If so, do you remember what that experience was like?
I sure do.
My long time goal that propelled me for years was the dream to be in ministry. Early in my life, I didn’t know exactly what form my ministry would take. I assumed it would be one of service to others – so I spent a decade working in the juvenile corrections and public health fields.
During this time, however, I realized there were other dimensions to my call – so I began to add things like serving as an advocate for the disenfranchised and pursuing a seminary education so I could be a resource to help folks learn more about the roots of their faith.
While I had a strong sense of the general direction in which I was to be moving, I had no idea what it might feel like to finally attain that goal and land in the ministry setting to which I had been called. I simply kept plugging along and doing what I could to be faithful.
I didn’t get a full taste of what the attainment of the goal was like until March of 2002 – two months before I was to graduate from seminary – when I received word that the church at which I had been doing pulpit supply wanted to call me as their new pastor.
At first I didn’t know exactly what to think or feel. In fact, I felt many things at once. I felt exuberance at feeling (at the ripe old age of 35!) as if I had finally landed in the place I was meant to be all along. I felt fear as I wondered if I would be up for the challenges before me. I felt angst as I prepared to shed one identity (that of “student”) for that of another (“pastor”). You name it, and I felt it!
In today’s reading we encountered another individual who had the experience of having a long-time goal realized: John the Baptist. John had devoted much of his life to preparing for the arrival of “the main character in this drama.” He was lucky enough to see that goal realized when Jesus showed up on the banks of the Jordan River.
And how did John react at that moment of attainment?
He had a variety of responses. In addition to the feelings I mentioned above (exuberance, fear, and angst), we are told John felt something else: unworthy.
I can totally understand why John might have felt unworthy. When you have a life-time goal that propels you, much of your life is spent preparing for the attainment of that goal. You spend all of your time focusing on the work that still needs to get done before you "arrive". To arrive at that moment of fulfillment can be disorienting because it thrusts you into a place you have never been before: a place that requires you to live fully in the moment. That’s a difficult shift to make!
Perhaps you have been in dogged pursuit of a long-time goal. You might have even gotten use to living your days by focusing primarily on all of the work that lies before you.
That can be a good thing.
I would add just one word of caution, however. Be careful you don’t become so focused on the future, that you miss those wonderful moments of fulfillment that reveal themselves in the present.
Til next time…