The When, Thens of Life

“Most men are not satisfied with the permanent output of their lives. Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within His followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world He came to redeem. Fame, pleasure and riches are but husks and ashes in contrast with the boundless and abiding joy of working with God for the fulfillment of His eternal plans. The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.”
-J. Campbell White

If we are completely honest with ourselves, most of us are not satisfied with the permanent output of our lives. This is why so many of us, so often, feel so purposeless. This is why so many of us jump from one job to the next, from one church to the next, from one city or school or relationship to the next. We feel like we were made for more, like maybe one day we will eventually find “it,” and yet nothing satisfies, nothing makes us feel fuller, and “it” is always still out there somewhere.

This is why when I was in high school, I thought going hundreds of miles away to Bible college would make me feel better, more accomplished.

It didn’t. And this is why all throughout my college career, I jumped from one ministry to the next, each semester choosing a different church and a different place of ministry – from tutoring refugee children to serving soup to the homeless, from discipling women on campus to helping to lead various children’s ministries.

When I didn’t find my purpose in any of these ministries, I thought that walking across the stage four years later and receiving my fake diploma (until they mailed me the real one) would make me feel more accomplished, more purposeful, like I had finally arrived.

When that piece of paper didn’t do it for me, I thought that getting married and moving out-of-state with the love of my life the following summer would make me finally satisfied. The wedding was more beautiful than I even imagined and the honeymoon was more blissful than I even thought possible. I rode on adrenaline for a while, delirious on love and pain meds. And then I realized that as much as I loved being married to the man of my dreams, to my best friend, I still was not satisfied.

So I thought that when I found a job and felt like I was contributing to the relationship, then I would feel satisfied. After finding a job, I felt even more dissatisfied, discouraged, and down than ever. Though I was bringing in an income to help my husband through school, I still felt purposeless, working a job that (I felt) had no meaning. Going through the motions. Getting up early. Going to work. Coming home tired. Paying the bills. Dissatisfied.

When the Lord gave me a full-time job at a ministry whose mission is my heartbeat, I thought that I had finally found it – my mission, my calling, my purpose. Now, I would feel satisfied, completely and wholly full of purpose and meaning.

But I didn’t. And I continued to spiral into a mess of other “when, thens.” When I write a book, then I will feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose. When I have a baby, then I will feel meaningful. When I move up at my job, then I will feel like I am fulfilling my calling.

But what, exactly, is my calling?

I have cried out to God about it so many times. God, why do I feel like such a failure when I work so hard for you? Why do I feel like I am doing nothing of value when my entire life – as a seminary wife, servant at my church, worker in my home, and full-time employee at a ministry – is centered on You? When all I try to do is work for You and serve those You place in my path?

Dear Molly, you are missing it.

It was like God spoke out loud to me through His Word:

Molly, “…you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary…” (Luke 10:41-42a).

Molly, “Come to Me… and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

I believe I have value because of what I do, because of my productivity level, because of the amount of output my life produces.

I forget that I have value simply because I am His.

I come back to J. Campbell White’s quote: “Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within His followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world He came to redeem… The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.”

But what, exactly, is Christ’s undertaking?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39)

When Christ lived on this earth, this was the whole of his life, the entirety of his undertaking: to live out the will of the Father, to fulfill the purpose which the Father had placed Him on this earth to do.

Love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor. Give yourself up for both.

I can do neither if I am not connected to Jesus.

He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

How do I remain in Him? I have tried to remain in Him by remaining in a life filled with ministry: obtaining a 4-year bachelor’s degree in Bible, serving in so many different ministries, cooking meals for others in my home, working at a Christian non-profit, serving in the children’s ministry at church, leading a small group, serving my husband. But none of these things are enough. I know it. My heart knows it. The restlessness that knocks on my heart and shakes my spirit tells me so. There must be more.

“Come to Me…”

This is the more. He is the more that my heart longs for and that my restless spirit needs to rest in.

Augustine once said it so simply and yet so deeply: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Again, back to J. Campbell White’s quote: “The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.”

What are life’s sweetest and most priceless rewards? Knowing Christ and making Him known. I don’t believe that we can make Him known unless we know Him. We cannot tell someone of the sweetness of another’s presence unless we know it intimately ourselves.

My life’s purpose is going to look different in every season of my life. I will never “reach” it. I will never “attain” it. I will never feel as though I have “fulfilled” it. Because as long as I live on this earth, my life’s purpose is to know Jesus Christ intimately and to make Him known to the world. I will never know Him “enough” because there is always more to know; and the more I know Him, the more I will want to know Him. My life’s purpose is to love Him with all my heart and to love others as I love myself. I will never reach a point where I love Him enough because the more I love Him, the more I will want to know Him; and the more I know Him, the more I will love Him. And out of that love, I will love others – more and more and more.

This is the greatest calling, the biggest purpose, the most worthwhile thing I or anyone else could do while on this earth, living this life.

Do you know Him?

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