I used to tell a story when I was younger. A simple story I’d heard about having faith in the seemingly random will of God. As the story goes…
A young man asks God how he can serve Him. In response, God tells this young man to move a giant boulder out behind his house by hand. So he goes out each day and presses against the boulder with all his might. He pushes it, leans against it, struggles with it. He presses with his legs, he lifts against it with his shoulders. He tries, day in and day out, to move this boulder, but it never budges an inch.
As the days go on, he begins to get frustrated with God. Try as he might, he cannot move this boulder, and he has no idea why God wants him to move it in the first place! What good is this going to do anyone? How does moving this boulder help the Kingdom of God? Especially since he can’t do it anyway.
So the man calls out to God in frustration, “God! Why am I doing this? Surely you know I can’t move this boulder. I just want to be of service to you. I’ve given you my life and my devotion. Why are you wasting me on this useless task?”
And God answers. “My son, your work has not been in vain. In faith, you have strained against this boulder and done well. Look at your hands, how rough and calloused and strong they are. Look at your arms and legs, feel the strength in your back. Consider, too, your indomitable will. Your struggle against this boulder was never about moving the boulder. It was about….”
I used to end this story by saying that the man’s struggle against the boulder was about preparing him for the work God had planned for him. The message was that the seemingly meaningless aspects of a life of faith were in preparation for the “real” work God had in store.
That made sense when I was a youth being prepared for the world. Everything was preparation. Today, God says something a little different.
And God answers. “My son, your work has not been in vain. In faith, you have strained against this boulder and done well. Look at your hands, how rough and calloused and strong they are. Look at your arms and legs, feel the strength in your back. Consider, too, your indomitable will. Your struggle against this boulder was never about moving the boulder. It was about shaping you into the miracle you are.
“You thought my work was out there with other people, accomplishing some great task or fulfilling some grand mission, but truly my work is right here with you. You are my great mission. And you shine as a light in the darkness, my son.”
For most of my life I have been reading Matthew 5:13-16 as an expectation for me to be so perfect, so good, that people literally turn their eyes to God and worship Him. I kept hearing Jesus calling me to be a light, but the truth is Jesus was calling me a light.
The spiritual disciplines we practice are not to prepare us for the greater work of God or enlightenment. They are the work of God. They are the path of enlightenment. On this journey, we are not striving to become something inspiring to others, the journey is the inspiration.
That’s why you already are the salt of the earth. Because your journey creates a longing in others to find their own path. And that’s why Jesus doesn’t say, “You are a candle, be lit.” Instead, He says, “You are a light, so shine forth.”
May you find comfort in the strain of growth, meaning in the practice of disciplines, and joy in sharing the journey.
Buen Camino, my friends.
To the end. To the truth.