One year ago today, I was in Beijing on the crew of a world-touring musical. I might have had the flu, one night before the biggest show of the entire tour. Checkerboard was just getting off the ground, and it’d be about a month or so before Suhail roped me in for issue number four.
I’ve ostensibly spent the last year in that category where the government and financial services would list me as self-employed. Four years and a variety of roles in online advertising closed out an April ago, and in the time since, I’ve been the sound director for a tour, a fulltime student for six weeks as I studied for the first Chartered Financial Analyst exam, pseudo-entrepreneur for four months as I looked into company starting opportunities, real estate dealmaker for two months as I engineered a solution to a financing challenge we were facing, and marketing and business development consultant for the last few months to maintain some flexibility while waiting on a dream job to play out. (It hasn’t).
It’s been an odd and varied year, to say the least. I haven’t had this much month-to-month uncertainty since 2006, when I was first out of school and was struggling to figure out what I was supposed to do in the world amidst all the “with great power comes great responsibility” talk that a university education can instill in you. But unlike that first season, which took me through the darkest winter of my life, this one’s been blessedly assuring, even though they’re structurally quite similar.
Like last time, I have no clue what the next month might bring. I have to commission myself towards certain causes, even though none of them are clear and distinct “needs” to fill yet, in the way that a typical job might send over a factory line of to-dos every day, month, year… the things I do in this season of life are leading towards finding those needs that should be filled. They’re one level removed from the typical pursuits, and invite a certain amount of introspection that wouldn’t be available while I’m Martha’ing my way through life. The first time around, that absence of “to-do” drove me to fear: I was in a desert, and the many directions I could take could lead to sea, could lead to peril, or could perhaps keep me right where I was, withering away as I plodded in circles under a scorching sun.
And yet this time around, there’s a certain conviction that this is a proper path to take, this is a good path to take. The cynical me can point to my peer group and argue that I’ve abandoned the hike up the mountain, that I’m fiddling around the valleys or doing nothing more than fleeting fancy-driven bushwhacking. But I counter with the charge that the hike up the mountain isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and that there is no real difference in view from the top than from the trails I was already on.
The Sermon on the Mount included a passage about worry, and when read on its own, it seems to have a peculiar disdain for planning. For Martha’ing, if you please. But as I read it today, I noticed how closely it’s juxtaposed against the discussion on money and the pursuit of it as an idol. Read together, the advice is not for me to live carpe diem, but rather that I cannot commit my life towards something as trivial as storing up treasures for future use. The treasures are but a tool for bringing about the kingdom, something that you’ll pick up and pass out as you go. Something that’s not yours to own, but yours to utilize in those moments that it comes your way, towards causes that are truly worth bringing to fruition.
Nothing new there, of course–words that take a moment to hear, and a lifetime to know. But good for me to wear on my heart, lest I get caught up in the hoopla about facebook millionaires and whatnot. The plethora of joys that are with me now–the friendships vulcanized over glasses of good wine, the sunsets golden across a hazeless horizon, the simple pleasures of being able to devote time towards finding things out–these are precious, these deserve to be far more than some single page biographical glossover in preparation for some crowning achievement. Because the crown that matters has already been granted; all else is but a thimble of foam, extra brushstrokes to add uniqueness to my record, no more.
That is, I think, the difference. Six years ago, I carried a deep fear that I’d be letting the gospel down, that to be a christian and yet to be ordinary was to waste that blessing that I’d been given. And yet those years since, with their many blessings and surprises, have instead reminded me of just how immutable the love of a father, the love of a king truly is: that the winters themselves say nothing about the love we are given other than that it is there with us, and that by it, we may endure whatever winds might come, whatever they might take away from us–the love of the savior is something that no wind will take away, and with that in hand, we have the freedom to seek and pursue that which truly matters.