As this blog moves closer and closer to celebrating its 10 year anniversary (a big milestone for me that I never thought possible when I posted my first submission) I started to look back at where I began and where I am headed. Right now, in this particular space, I feel somewhat confused, lost, and lacking clear direction. It’s not to say I’m spiritually lost per se, I know the growth I have experienced is ongoing and never ending. I just feel as if I have lost sight of why the journey began in the first place.
To recap the last ten years, I have left a long and fruitful career in advertising. I started and finished a Masters of Divinity degree at one of the world’s most prestigious seminaries. During that time, I fought difficult battle with cancer and graduated with honors. I would go on to fight an even more difficult battle with members of a church who did their best to discredit my commitment to my call. After moving across country twice in two years, I started a new church, one that is literally named New Church. Since then, I have survived a global pandemic. And as of this week, I ran my first 10k.
Other than the last two, I have spoken about this in some form or another on this blog site. It is here I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about all the different ways to see Christ in the face of strangers, and even in the face of a pandemic and pain of all sorts. The impetus for its creation was to help people look for and honor the Divine presence in all people. One of the main ways we can do this is by living into the highly ethical ideal of “loving your neighbor as yourself.”
Then there was a new article about a pizzeria who offered free slices to the hungry, and how that idea encouraged patrons of the restaurant to share in this act of generosity by paying for the slices so the owner wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden by himself.
I’ve posted and linked articles on the power of doing random acts of kindness, living in the moment, and finding solace in prayer. I even created @Knowvember a 30-Day challenge for people to meet 30 new people and learn their story.
I’ve also written about how the ancient scriptures speak of doing justice, caring for the poor, the widows, orphans and marginalized. And have spilt much ink on how Jesus (the namesake of this blog) brought those lessons to life as a means to usher in a new kingdom, one where Divine rightness prevails. And I’ve penned many opinions on how we the followers of this man need to step into this role, to be an active participant in the reign of this kingdom by living into our call as children of God, the body of Christ, the church, or simply as “spiritual beings having a human experience.”
With all that said, I feel as if I have approached this blog talking about the things I can do, and not so much on what the other can do for me. I often wonder (since my blog isn’t being flooded with new viewers) what kind of an impact is all this effort really having on the greater good of the world. What have I really done? Who’s life is really being affected or changed by my words or opinions? Am I doing this just to feed my ego? Or to simply procrastinate from doing the things I ought to be doing?
Seriously, what’s the point?
I’m not going to lie. This has been hanging on my head for quite some time now. And it’s often the topic of discussion inside my head when I walk with God. Up until now, that has been my Achilles. That is to say, up until I met Aaron and Mary Ann, the new neighbors down the street. You see, my motive to stop and talk to them was partly to put to practice what I preach – take the initiative to show kindness to strangers so I have something to write about and look good. But here’s the thing, after doing this for so long I sometimes forget that one of the most important reasons for meeting strangers is to learn from them.
Case in point, Aaron. After some small talk and pleasantries, our conversation went a little deeper than expected. And we shared our thoughts on faith, religion, and the struggles of life. I confessed that I have often tried to quit ministry but like Al Pacino character in The Godfather said, “Every time I try to get out, they keep pulling me back in.”
Then Aaron shared with me the story of the starfish. As the story goes, a man is walking down the beach when he notices all the starfish that have been abandoned on the shore by the ebb tide. The man begins to pick up the starfish, one by one, and throws each one out into the water. It seems like a laborious task. And in fact, another person passes by he points out how futile this guys efforts are.
“You’re not going to make a difference doing that,” the passerby said to the man. Without being discouraged, the man bends down and picks up another star fish and throws it back into the water, replying to the passerby, “Perhaps you are correct, but I’ve made a difference to this one.”
While the moral of the story is simply that we can’t save the entire world, but we can still make a big difference I took Aaron’s story to the heart and placed it right on top of my pain and struggles. I know my blog isn’t racking up hundreds of thousands followers, nor is my ministry reaching the masses that others are doing. But that does not negate the fact that I still am able to reach people, even if it’s only one person I am reaching; or even if only that one person is myself.
It’s kind of like that old saying, it’s not in the quantity but the quality. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have amassed on social media but how you are able to engage with them. We all have something to give to one another – love, generosity, kindness – but we also all have something to receive.
I wonder if my burnout or lack of seeing the results of my efforts are because I am too focused on the gifts I bring instead of the gifts that others possess. Perhaps I’ve been bending down looking for star fish on the shoreline and not realizing I am the star that needs to return to the sea from which I came.
Maybe the next ten years, if I am so blessed to have them, will be spent not looking at the divine light in others but how such light can illuminate my darkness so that I can see, in every nook and cranny of my being, the Divine within. It’s hard to give something to someone else when you yourself don’t have it in the first place to give.