Find Your Fit
Lessons Every Child Should Learn & No Adult Should Forget
Sunday, November 10, 2013
If there is one group of folks that I am somewhat jealous and envious of, it is those of you are who are handy around the house. I really enjoy doing projects and working on things at home, but, most of the time I have two major problems that are difficult for me to overcome in this arena—first, I generally don’t have a clue as to what I am doing and second, if and when I do know what to do, I generally struggle to do the job as I am often all thumbs.
For this reason, I can totally relate to the analogy that Jon, Jim and Jeff used to start our service today. One of my struggles is doing projects where measuring and cutting is required in order to ensure a good fit. Often times, rather than things corresponding exactly as they should, I end up with boards cut too short or too long, with holes in the wrong place, or with fixtures or frames mounted in less than perfect places. Oh, sure, sometimes you can get by with things being less than perfect, and, believe you me, my work regularly testifies to this truth. But, as we all know, nothing feels better and there is no greater sense of accomplishment than when things fit or when a projects comes together just as we had planned from the beginning.
From working on projects around the house, to our favorite clothes to new environments that we find ourselves a part of—we all know that it feels good when things fit. In the same way, I don’t think it is an overstatement or an oversimplification to suggest that our passage for today is a classic example of two people, named Paul and Barnabas, finding a perfect fit for their lives. You see, at this juncture in the early church, God was beginning to challenge the early believers to move beyond themselves and to consider first attempts at spreading the message of Jesus and faith to the greater known world.
It was an audacious idea to say the least. Unlike today, most people in the known world at the time, had no idea of who Jesus was and had likely never even heard the name. They had no sense of people building their lives around his life and no knowledge of his teachings. And, they certainly had no idea about the claim that he was actually God’s son or that Christ provided the way for human beings to know and be in relationship with God.
Travel and safety in the ancient world was difficult and uncertain enough, but, when you couple this with the great burden that the early missionaries also carried as they sought to introduce Jesus to a world for whom he was an unknown figure, you can understand the enormity of the task. To say that this project and work was not for everyone is an incredible understatement. Yet for Paul and Barnabas, this task seems to have been exactly the kind of pursuit for which they had been created. As the text in Acts 13 suggests, of all of the gifts and roles in the Antioch church, this was the place where Paul and Barnabas fit. This was the task that they had been gifted and prepared for and the work that they felt led to pursue. As a result, they embraced the opportunity and their fellow believers in Antioch affirmed their sense of calling. Again, Paul and Barnabas found their fit.
When I think about our attempts to be all that God wants us to be, and, when I think of our work in helping others, including our children, to be all that God wants them to be, I believe with all of my heart that one of the tasks that we all need to be focused on is the quest to find our fit. What I mean by this is the quest to find the places and tasks in this world and in God’s work that we have all been uniquely created to fit into. For all of us there are places where our gifts, our interests and our abilities fit perfectly. For all of us there are tasks that in doing can bring joy to God and meaning to us. For all of us, there is work to do where both our hearts and the heart of God can sing. For all of us, there are places where we simply fit.
In reflecting upon this idea, I think about a young man that I knew a number of years ago named Aaron. When I had the privilege of getting to know him, Aaron had recent graduated from college and was in the process of simply trying to find his way. He was intelligent, articulate and had a great future in front of him. He was also a person of deep faith and someone who wanted his faith to play a significant role in the days that were ahead in his life. At the time, he just didn’t know where the place was going to be.
As he tried to sort it all out, Aaron had gone to live for a year in Russia with a group of believers there. His hope was that as he served, prayed and pondered, he would discover where he ultimately fit into God’s world.
I encountered Aaron as our church at the time sent a mission team to work with the same group of Russian believers that Aaron was living among. One night, as we rode a bus after a worship service in a distant village, I sat beside Aaron and listened as he told me about his year of trying to figure out what God wanted him to do with his life. What I remember very distinctly is that at one point in the conversation, Aaron began to tell me about the suggestions and ideas that others had offered to him. What was obvious from listening to his story is that while Aaron didn’t know where God was leading him a lot of other people thought that they did. Countless family members, friends and fellow believers had tried to explain to Aaron exactly what God wanted to do with his life. And, not all, but many of these well- meaning people had suggested to Aaron that if he really wanted to give his life’s work to God, then that must mean that he was called to some sort of Church vocational work. In other words, it meant that he must go into ministry.
What I found in Aaron that night as the old diesel bus we were riding rumbled across the Russian countryside and into the night was that this young man was remarkable wise for his age for he was exhibiting three remarkable disciplines. For one, he was patient, prayerful and open. He really wanted his life to count for something and he wanted to find where that place and fit was located. Second, he refused to allow others to dictate for him where that place was. Sure he was interested in people’s opinions and he wanted to hear their thoughts, but, he refused to allow someone to force him and his life into a spot where he ultimately didn’t fit. Instead he was looking for the place where he belonged. And third, he was mature enough to also understand that God can use any vocational task for his kingdoms work not just a life in ministry. Said another way, Aaron recognized that a life of Christian service can exist for a banker, a lawyer, a veterinarian or a plant worker just as it does for a pastor. Again, he just wanted to know where it was that God had created him to fit.
My friends, that is the sort of environment we need to create in the church for each other and for the generations that are yet to come in the life of this church. And, this is the type of thinking that we need when it comes to helping one another discover what the things that God wants us to do in a given moment in life and in light of our gifts or when it comes to learning who God wants us to be when it comes to our vocation and what we want to do with our lives holistically.
We need to be a place of faith where we are all actively and yet patiently seeking our fit in God’s kingdom work. We also need to be a place where we don’t try to force each other into the work that we think God wants each other to do. Without question, one of the worst things we can do is to guilt one another into serving in places, ministries or areas for which we are not gifted or that don’t bring us joy. All of us are uniquely created and we all fit somewhere but none of us fit everywhere. Simply trying to cram someone into a spot where they don’t belong is no better in the life of faith than it is as a method in any other aspect of life. And finally, finding our place and helping others to do the same also means dreaming outside of the box and it means realizing that any place can be a spot where God can use us for his kingdom’s work if that is the place God has called us to be.
Paul and Barnabas were the finest missionaries the world has ever known. That is the case because this is the place in their lives and the world where they fit perfectly. The wonder and beauty of it all is that when they recognized where they fit, they listened to and followed God’s call. And, when they found where they fit and shared it with the congregation in Antioch rather than suggesting they do something else, their fellow believers in Antioch blessed them and affirmed them.
Where do we fit? What is it right now that God wants to do with us? Where do our gifts and the world’s great needs meet? What makes our heart sing?
Once we know what it is, are we willing to do it? And, are we willing to affirm and support one another in pursuing our dreams? Nothing, nothing is better than finding the place where we have a perfect fit. Amen.