Today I explained to my students what I'm expecting to see in their final literature paper. One of the main things I told them is I want them to focus on going deeper in their analysis of the stories, to think of their papers like tree roots and go further in depth rather than in breadth.
Recently I've been realizing that this isn't just true about well-written papers. It's also true about life.
I am a compassionate person. Most of you probably are too, and you well know the feeling of taking the world on your shoulders. Sometimes I allow myself to take on things that are beyond my calling, burdens that "aren't mine to carry," as the saying goes. So much of the time, I think I consider this a good thing. I'm being compassionate. Right? So then why is it so exhausting carrying all this around?
Sometimes I find myself worrying over things that are way outside of my control.
Problem is, we only have so much energy and so much time in the day. Like that tree, shouldn't we focus on developing deeper roots instead of wide ones?
It's much easier in the Christian life to full our days with good acts rather than listening for the voice of God. Obedience to God's calling takes effort, practice, and discipline. And sometimes it requires more of us that we want to give. All too often, we live how we think the Christian lifestyle should look rather than actually living in relationship with Christ. It's like if I were to go around, clean like a maid and cook (btw-yeah right--poor Matt's lucky if the dishwasher has been run) because I think that's what being a "good wife" looks like, but I never actually interact with my husband. Why do we take this approach to our relationship with Christ?
When we look at Jesus' actions and prayers while on earth, we see He had a singular focus: obedience to the Father. I have wondered in the past why Jesus didn't just heal everyone on earth, or spend all His time proclaiming His identity to as many people as possible. But that line of thinking presupposes something important: the idea that more is better.
What Jesus did instead was listen for the voice of God. His calling was direct, specific, and powerful.
His calling was to save the world.
But how did He go about that? One act of obedience at a time. Jesus only traveled, spoke, taught, healed, according to the direction of God. So why do I think my life, my calling, should be any different? Why am I not doing more to listen to that calling?
When we catch hold of our purpose, we find great freedom from trying to fulfill everyone else's callings, and we become much more effective in our ministry within the body of Christ. This is something I've been learning and struggling with lately, as I'm daily trying to train my focus on my particular calling. But there is such joy in knowing the entire world does not rest on our shoulders, isn't there?
Do you ever find yourself focusing on the breadth of your calling rather than the depth? What do you do to help focus your perspective and energy on the right things?
*Photo from http://www.zazzle.com/tree_with_roots_and_branches_surrounding_a_heart_postcard-239744737284067784