I keep thinking about my friends. The ones I have known for a couple decades now. You might recognize this tribe: they went to college...or a bit of college...then gave themselves fully to something. They served, working toward the common good in the Peace Corps, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, Youth Encounter, fulltime camps and retreat centers, Up with People, Habitat for Humanity, YWAM, etc. One friend went off to be a shepherd in New Zealand. Really. It was some sort of volunteer farm program. A real live shepherd! Me? I moved to North Idaho and lived at Camp Lutherhaven.
Now, fast forward 10-20 years and most of these friends are still living lives of service. The sad part is that they have trouble believing it.
Jesus bids us to "come and die." When you sign up for a year of fulltime volunteering--or get sent overseas--when you sign on for voluntary poverty--it feels like you are actually doing something. You are sure you know what it feels like to "come and die." It feels like you are making a difference. You know what it means to "take up your cross and follow." But at this age, it doesn't feel clear at all. Because now, you find yourself with people to tend. Children and aging parents. You make commitments to partners. You walk with a friend through a life-altaring diagnosis. You have mortgages to pay and jobs that require much of you.
And then you think back to those early twenties and think, "What the hell am I doing to help?" Or "Remember when we were going to single-handedly take down poverty?"
Guess what? You are doing something. Anyone who has spent the day tending to a kid in diapers knows what it means to "come and die." Walking with your friends through a shitstorm breakup? You do, too. And when you were twenty and so passionately serving? You had the option to quit and go home. These complex lives you have now? Well, friends, you don't get to quit and go home. You are here--and making all sorts of goodness in this world. I see it even if you don't.