I was reading something someone had written in an online diary the other day. They were asking and asking you what they should do with their life. Surely there's more to it than this? The school run, the laundry, the shopping, the tidying... Where are the great things you want me to do, God? Questions like that.
Questions that I've asked as well. Sometimes I think I hear your answers and other times I strain to listen but all I hear is silence (and that little ringing noise that doesn't go away - any chance of a quick fix there?). I know that I'm not on my own when I open my hands and my heart in front of you and ask you to tell me what to do with this life I'm living. There's so much literature about finding our path, our 'sweet spot', our purpose in life. It's all very inspiring; there's good Bible-based wisdom in it all. I want to do great things for you. I want to be involved in your Plan for the world. Not a bystander, not someone who takes the line of least resistance, but someone that you trust with a unique job to do. I want to understand what that job is and I want to do it well and I want to meet you one day and find you smiling.
So the reply that my online friend received when she asked, 'What about me? What should I do with my life?' surprised me. You said, 'Just be.'
I'm not sure that this was the answer she was expecting. I know that there's a season for everything, and I know that this lady's life is busy with small children and work and other commitments and I know that her questions were born of a desperation to change from the humdrum to the extraordinary. To find some purpose that transcends the everyday.
I want that too, Father. I love the full-colour roller coaster of life lived for you. I don't want to go back to the black and white or pale pastel way things were before. I want to experience all that you have for me. Fulfil my potential. Push at the boundaries and be all that I can be.
It all feels about motion. Action. Dynamism. Excitement and suspense! Not stopping, waiting, resting, just be-ing. In fact that sounds a bit disappointing.
And then I did that thing I do where I suddenly join up the dots. A few things that have been whirling round in my head like atoms flying around each other spontaneously collide. Ha!
Just rewind a bit. A couple of months ago, I was leafing through my Bible and I came to the book of Micah. I didn't think I'd ever read any Micah but remarkably, there were a few notes in the margin. It turns out Micah is a minor prophet, and I learn that this doesn't mean that he was small in stature, or young, or not-very-important, it just means that he wasn't as prolific as other prophets like Isaiah or Ezekiel.
He said some good stuff. He said that the Shepherd would be born in Bethlehem and would be the peace of his people. Oh yes. He said that he will shepherd his flock in strength and majesty and that his greatness will reach the ends of the earth. Amen to that.
Micah also made some fairly dire pronouncements and a lot of stuff that I'd have to read with a commentary in my other hand, but I found this in chapter 6.
'With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?'
Micah 6: 6-7
What can I do for you, Father?
What can I give you to show you how I feel about you?
What should my offering be, now that we don't burn things?
What do you want me to do with my life?
How can I do great things for you?
'He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.'
I liked this. I underlined it and drew a line down the margin. It seems to me to be a wonderful summary of everything you ask of us.
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
I filed it away.
Some time later, a song I didn't know came on my worship CD in the car.
'What shall I bring before the Lord?
And bow my knee before my God?
(Andy Bromley, 'Love Mercy' 2004 Kingsway)
That sounded familiar. It's based on that bit from the minor prophet, isn't it? What's his name...
'Can I give you a thousand words
Or please you with ten thousand songs?
Oh. This bit got my attention. I might not do songs (except when there's nobody else in the house, when I might turn it up loud), but I do words. Lots of them. I am full of words. When words fail me it's time to lie down. I love words. I always have something to say, and that's just it: I want to use them. For you! I want to write to you, about you, with you and through you. It's what I do.
Can I please you with my words?
'But you have shown us what is good
Through the message of your Son
Show justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.'
Micah. That's his name. He was saying that what you want is simple. You want us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. Burnt offerings? No, that day is done. Extravagant sacrifice? Nope. You don't want that. It's simple.
This is good: do what is right. Be kind. Walk humbly with you.
Maybe you have something bold and dramatic in store for each of me, now or some time in the future. Maybe you do and maybe you don't, but what comes first is the basic requirement. You have shown us what is good and this is it. As the Message Bible puts it:
'It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbour, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously - Take God seriously.'
Micah 6:8 MSG
What do you want me to do with my life, Father? Ah. You've already told me.
Yes, I have gifts that I want to use to the full. I want to do everything that you want me to in order to realise all the potential I have. I don't want to bury my talents in the ground, I want to invest them and give you back abundant returns. I want to be trusted with much, and make it wonderful for your glory. I want to make you laugh with delight.
But maybe I do already. You love me just as I am, right now, right here. Sitting here with cold feet and cold coffee and an imperfect mind that tends to wander when I try to spend a little bit of time with the Almighty God. It's much simpler than finding my sweet spot, or my hidden talents to tell me what you would have me do with my life; you have already told me the most important thing, which is how to be.
' And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercyand to walk humbly with your God.'
If I get this bit right I wonder how many other things might fall into place? Get the everyday attitude to living right and you might teach me how to fly. If I want the icing on the cake I need the sponge bit first, don't I? And these are the ingredients.
Justice, mercy, humility, God.
Father, forgive me when I try to run before I can walk. Forgive me that I want to get ahead and start the exciting things. I have dreams and plans and hopes and I know that you're in them... so I want to thank you for reminding me of the foundations to the whole thing. They need to be solid, and the only place to build is on the Rock.
Maybe I need to learn how to be before I can learn how to do.
Two lines in a book of the Bible written by a minor prophet. I could miss Micah so easily as I flip past. He's only short (might have been a giant for all I knew, but he chose his words carefully) but he packs quite a punch.
Help me not to start to think I've got it sorted. Help me with the justice thing and the mercy bit as well. As a mother of young children too often I'm called to adjudicate and all the time I'm critical and irritable. Help me to do what is right. Help me to be kind even when I feel like hitting back. Remind me of your amazing forgiveness of me when I'm tempted to withhold mine from someone who's upset me. Show me the world through your eyes so that I can see what you see.
Andy Bromley's song again:
My love more than a thousand words
My praise more that ten thousand songsExtravagant sacrifice.'
The way I live is more of an offering than anything I might achieve. It's what you've asked for.
I can't do anything or create anything that could honour you more than to turn over to you all that I already am.
You have shown me what is good: to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with you.
That'll do for me.