I’ve been spending this past week working on a seminary application. Since this has moved from a dream that I’ve had for multiple years to the first steps of a goal, I’ve been hit with fear. What if they don’t accept me? What if I’ve forgotten how to be in school? What if I don’t have time to work on actual class assignments? But I’m committed to not making decisions out of fear so I’m still writing essays and asking a few people for references.
I don’t think seminar is for everyone. However, if we went around stating our wildest dreams I’d love to sit on a translation committee when I’m in my 60s or 70s. I want to learn Hebrew and Greek. I’d love to learn to fly planes and contribute to missions work. I’d like more ministry training. I’d love to do research and eventually get my Ph.D (I already have an idea for a dissertation). I want to settle down in a community, serve locally, and leave behind a lifetime of work that disciples the people I meet in real life and the ones that come after me.
I’ve also been having Voxer conversations about calling and mission. I think there’s a real gap in American Christianity because women don’t often have a place to serve in their communities. They have to go online. They have to become famous. They have to network and get in the right groups and be known by the right people. Then they have to sell something faith-related. Then, they might be able to preach. They might be invited to speak at churches and to women’s groups.
If that’s your calling, I’m cheering for you. It’s not mine. And I’ve seen a lot of problems come with this because we aren’t made for fame. We aren’t made to cultivate influence; we are made to steward the influence we do have. We are made for community and accountability. We are made, not to market our faith, but to live it out. Jesus never chased down the right people. He didn’t go to networking events. He had to go through Samaria to talk to the woman at the well instead. He had to preach to people and say things they didn’t like and watch them walk away. He wasn’t building an audience; He saw each person who was present.
I’m not quitting the internet because it’s here and it’s a tool that can do a lot of good. Plus, right now, this is posted on the internet. I’m hoping to go to seminary online where I will use the internet to take classes. But I am reminding myself that my focus isn’t to grow a following or get eyes on my work or meet the right people. I want to grow, share, and learn instead.
As I’ve started crafting posts for the blog again now that volleyball season is over, I’ve realized that I have to make a choice. If I’m going to write longer pieces on the blog, I have to save some of my thoughts. I can’t write 200 word blurbs on topics, post them to Instagram, and then wonder why I don’t have ideas for the blog. I’m going to make sacrifices of immediate tasks in order to complete seminary work. It might be quieter online, but it will be worth it.
I don’t think it’s just me with these problems. We write Instagram captions, but don’t have time to disciple that teenager. We learn from YouTube, but don’t have time to have coffee with an older mentor. We’re reading a popular book, but can’t audit that free class on the Old Testament. None of those first things are bad until they take over our whole lives.
As we learn to navigate the world with the internet and social media, I have two challenges for us.
Let’s engage in our real lives.
The online market for Christianity is crowded. There are lots of reputable voices (lots of crazies too, but let’s ignore that for a moment) speaking to the masses that show up online. But what about the people that don’t? What about the people that have no interest in listening to a Christian influencer speak in Facebook videos? What about the people who don’t know Jesus that will not follow me online?
Maybe God has us scattered around the country (and the world, but really, I’m talking to Americans here) because these spaces need us. I don’t think God wanted us to gather together with the people we like, the people who are the most like us to enjoy each other’s company all the time. Friends, it would be my wildest dream to gather my people into one spot. Instead God keeps sending us out. Did you know that even people who don’t know Jesus can enjoy the company of people they like? There’s nothing supernatural about that; it’s one of the most natural things in the world. But to live well among people aren’t like us is the result of the power of God.
What if we go out into our communities and neighborhoods and cities and invest in the people there? Not with an attitude of superiority, “here, let me tell you what to believe, fix all your problems, descend to your realm.” But to get to know people and do life with them. When we are involved in intersecting lives, we will rub shoulders with people who don’t know Jesus. It’s a lot harder to run away from someone in real life; you can’t just hit the unfollow button. Don’t hear me say to be obnoxious. If you do life together long enough, you’re going to get chances to talk about your faith and hopefully, they will see it be real in your actions and words.
God put us where we are so that we can actually be there. We can build community, make friends, influence our spaces. If all of us dedicated our lives to what seems small some days, we would literally change the world because we’re everywhere.
Let’s play the long game.
Seminary is the long game for me. I don’t have a plan for it in 4 years necessarily but I see stacks of stuff to do at some point and seminary is the next step. Envision yourself at 80. What do you want to be true? Write your own eulogy. What would you include? Now work backward.
For me, the long game looks like applying to seminary. It means saving some thoughts from Instagram captions to develop into longer blog posts. It means working daily with my children when there are no results this month but I expect them to show up in a few years. It’s staying in uncomfortable spots because word by word, daily example by daily example, things will shift.
The long game for you might look like business school. It might be hosting a monthly dinner for some people desiring community. It might be teaching children’s Sunday School or building a reading list. I don’t know your life but the Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of leading you. I just know that we can’t live seeking comfort now and end up where we want to be in thirty years.
We live in a world of instant gratification, internet fame, sudden spotlights. Let’s build character and learn skills that will allow us to work long after Instagram is for old people. Let’s live well off-line, seeing the faces and opportunities that will never turn into photo ops.
This is a marathon. I want to go all the way to the end and that means I’m going to have to train. Join me?