Thursday, March 12, 2015

Usefulness and Worth

Each year, I adopt the same Lenten discipline.  I may or may not adopt an additional discipline, but I always intend to read my way through Henri Nouwen's Show Me the Way:  Readings for Each Day of Earth.  Each year, I am partially or fully successful.

As I read, I underline anything that jumps out at me.  And now, since I've been reading it for over 10 years, as I reread it each year, I'm revisiting spiritual Kristins past.

Some years, I'm clearly wrestling with the question of how to be faithful.  Do I need to give away all my money?  Should I go join a monastic community?

Some years I'm wrestling with my feelings of inadequacy.  Some years I'm resisting the pull of the secular world more successfully than other years.

Here's the quote that I underlined a week ago:  "In solitude, we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness" (p. 53).

I wonder if my future self will remember Lent of 2015 as the year I struggled more than usual with the idea that my daily actions weren't exactly setting the world on fire.  I'm not freeing the oppressed.  I do solve a wide variety of student and faculty problems each day, but in the end, they'd probably solve themselves if I wasn't there to intervene.  The planet will not become a better place because I spent a day at work sorting through the office of a colleague who had been RIFed and left a lot of piles of paper behind.

This phase too shall pass.  But in the meantime, it's good to have the words of Nouwen, that old writer friend, to remind me that God loves me, even if I can't bring peace to regions ripped apart by war.  God loves me and smiles on me as I go about my daily actions of trying to improve life right here in my patch of space.

And God loves me, even if I can't make those improvements.  My worth is not in what I do or accomplish.

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