“He has showed you. O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8
As I have recently turned the half-century mark, I’ve noticed the questions I ask myself are starting to change. When I was in Bible college, I’d ask myself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” No one is really a grown-up in college, unless you were already married and pursuing a second career. But I was nineteen, so now you understand.
Another key question on all the young minds was, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” In a continual effort to look and sound spiritual, we were very keen to put God in every aspect of our conversation, and this question verily dripped of spirituality (inquiring after God’s Will) and obedience (implying we’d actually follow that Will if we knew what it was. And I did. Mostly.).
However, now that I’m older and a LOT grayer I’m wondering, “Is this it? Is this what God has planned for me all along? A small church in a small Midwestern town with little influence and no retirement fund? Did I miss it somewhere?”
As I was thinking about these things – my education, career moves, influence (or lack thereof), my lack of a will and end of life decisions – I noticed I was asking even smaller questions. Since it is obvious that God hasn’t called me to pastor a megachurch, govern a small nation or write the next great American autobiography, I’m now starting to judge my life not on what I’m going to do, but on how I’m living and what matters most.
Since my Bible college days, the push has been to find my ministry spot (read that, “God’s Will”), get married, raise a family, buy a house, contribute to the 401k, go on missions trips and retire close to the grandkids, hopefully in a warm climate. Well, I got married, found a ministry and helped raise stepsons. Does two and a half out of eight count? In the eyes of the world, am I a success? Probably not.
It’s a good thing I don’t answer to the eyes of the world.
As I was contemplating all these things at work the other day, this one verse in Micah kept rolling around in my head. It was as if God was saying, “This is it, Jim. This is what I’ve called you to do.” And I’m thinking, Can it really be this simple? Have I inhabited the planet successfully if all I’ve done is acted justly, loved mercy and walked humbly before God? I think so.
Now I’m wondering if we all put too much of a burden on ourselves. We want to live the perfect life that pleases a perfect God. We want to raise perfect children who get perfect grades and grow up perfectly healthy so they’ll supply us with perfect grandchildren who will visit us in our perfect retirement home with the perfect golf course.
And what science fiction novel did that idea fall out of?
For all our wants, dreams, hopes, goals, ambitions, work and investments, God has already told us what is good and what He requires. Now I’m wondering why, as I’ve called myself a Christian for almost forty years, I’ve focused on everything else but what God has required.
I wonder how different my perspective would have been if, at age nineteen, my focus was not on finding the right ministry, but on justice, love, mercy and humility before God. And, I wish I had read Micah 6:8 in The Message version in college: “But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.” Yes, this is what it means to be a success in God’s eyes. And yes, it is that simple.