This is a fine set of reflections by Trevor Lee on youthful idealism, reality, and faith in a God who still is at work.
As a 25 year old seminary student I sat at a Perkins with our 60-something Senior Pastor and excitedly spewed out a litany of great ideas that would change our church and then the world. We discussed a few things and then he took a very paternal voice and told me someday reality would catch up with me. I was disappointed by his response and vowed to never lose my optimistic zeal.
Lately I fear I’m breaking my promise to myself. The longer I’m a pastor the more reality catches up with me and I start to wonder if I’m headed toward pessimism and eternal discouragement. Things haven’t broken the way I pictured them when I was 25.
Was I wrong to have that optimistic zeal or am I wrong for letting it fade? I think the answer is yes to both. Let me explain….
However, as the Spirit continues to do the good work of transformation in me I see more clearly when my thoughts and actions are borne of a godly optimistic zeal and when they are just my ego wearing a zeal mask. As the Spirit helps me to progressively put the ego to death I find some of the things God gives me passion for are different than the things I was thinking. Turns out God’s not as passionate about people knowing what I do as I am….Her [Mary’s] song is one of praise to God for the great things he has done for her. You mean like ruining her life? But Mary didn’t see it that way. Whatever difficulty God’s work would create in her life she understood that the story wasn’t about her, it was God’s story, and she had been given the chance to be the one woman in history who would carry the Son of God. She knew God had been at work since the beginning of humanity and that his work would not finish with her death. I never would have said it, but that day at Perkins I only thought about God’s work in the context of my life. I’m learning to celebrate the fact that it’s his story, I just play whatever part he gives me. Success isn’t me changing the world—it’s him changing it through all of his people….
My optimistic zeal needed to be reshaped by God, but we need to spend more time giving reality a reality check. God is not done. God is not boring. God has given us his Spirit to work for redemption and reconciliation in our world until the return of Christ. We should be optimistic if we rely on him. We should have zeal—for prayer, for the poor, for salvation, for hope, for healing, for chains of bondage being broken, for a fully-functioning body with Christ as its head. We have way too little optimistic zeal these days. I pray that God strips away our egos and our desire to star in our own stories, but I also pray that he preserves the optimistic zeal we once had.