On a recent trip to Washington, D.C. for a worldview conference, I sat in an airport. This was on the tail end of several busy weeks, and I was tired and susceptible to the enemy’s enticing.
As I walked through the airport, a number of things got me thinking about my job, and my calling, and wondering about whether I was really on the right path. First, I saw a family who was leaving for vacation: a dad in his Hawaiian-themed shirt, a mom in her sundress, and their two children dressed in excitement, joy, and beachwear. I suddenly missed my family and strongly wished that I was with them leaving for a vacation. I tried to remember our last vacation and though it was not long ago, it felt like an old fading memory. I felt deserving of relaxation and hated the weight of responsibility on me.
Then, I saw a businessman with a nice custom suit, clean haircut, and expensive watch. I thought about the deals he was traveling to make as he talked on his cell phone, carefully navigating a conversation. I envied his calling as a businessman, imagining the ease with which he would retire one day, with more wealth than he needed and plenty to leave his children. I thought back to my days in sales. All of a sudden, I thought about the money it would require to send our kids to college. I wondered how we would have enough. I questioned what I would do next, as suddenly, for the first time in a long time, my job did not seem adequate.
I was traveling with two other friends, and when we landed we had some time to get out and see D.C. The day was spent looking at large, expensive, marble and granite structures that stood to memorialize the dead. The day concluded with a walk through Arlington National Cemetery, which has hundreds of thousands of smaller marble “monuments” standing to memorialize men and women who had fought for our freedom and died. (On a side note: I am extremely grateful for all of these men and women and their efforts for our freedom, and I am also very grateful for the forefathers of our country who defined the freedom that we enjoy.) What stood out to me in Washington, D.C. was that it was a giant monument to the past, and specifically to those who are no longer with us.
It also struck me that many of the structures reminded me of Greek ruins, such as the Parthenon, or the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The greatest structures in D.C. had massive columns of marble, just like the ones we see in remaining ruins. And in a moment I realized that they, too, would all be toppled one day. The Temple of Artemis was considered the greatest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and was about four times as large as the similarly-designed Lincoln Memorial. Yet all that remains of that “wonder” today is a few scattered stones; the building is so completely destroyed that it took modern scholars 60 years just to find it. So, not only will great men no longer be around one day, but nothing that reminds us of them will remain.
And then there was little old me. Irrelevant, except that Christ lives in me. I spend so much time thinking about my “calling”; trying to figure out where my gifts and talents meet the greatest needs of the world, as if I am personally the answer to the problem. I spend so much time making sure that I am maximizing my so-called output, and wondering if I am doing exactly the right thing. I spend so much time thinking about me. But when Jesus “calls” a follower, He asks them to come and die (Mark 8:35). He seems to say, “Become less, so that I might become greater through you” (John 3:30).
In modern Christianity, we spend so much time focusing on ourselves that we never seem to yield to the power and might of God. We just take our measly natural powers and try to develop them so that we never see the supernatural work. And yet the best we can do on our own—even by the greatest human, with the biggest monuments—are fairly close to meaningless in the long run of eternity.
But everything that I can’t do, God can do. When you come to the end of yourself and can do no more, God moves. The greatest thing you do today is surrender fully to Him who can do immeasurably more than we can ask, or even imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Here’s the ironic part: though the earthly monuments that we build to “immortalize” people (or that people build in an attempt to “immortalize” themselves) will eventually turn to dust, the people themselves actually are immortal. After this short time on earth, each of us will be spending eternity somewhere. God has allowed us to aid in His creation of immortal monuments—not simple and unimaginative stone columns, but wonderfully unique, creative, and living people. He has allowed us to steward His eternal truths and invest in the lives of others who will be able to worship Him forever.
That is your calling. The highest and best use of our lives is surrendering to the One who can do all things.