- Isaiah 49:3-6
- 1 Corinthians 1:1-3
- John 1:29-34
Et ego dixi: In vacuum laboravi; sine causa et vane fortitudinem meam consumpsi.
To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.
This verse is missing from the assigned readings today. It’s actually pretty Prophetic of that Eloi, Eloi, moment on the cross, I think. More though, how much I recognize this sentiment, how much it sounds like life sometimes. The Psalms are filled with this, as are the Wisdom books: sometimes stuff just sucks. Worse than that, it feels like nothing makes sense, like nothing you’ve done is of value.
Yesterday (Saturday) was the anniversary of an event in my personal life that totally wrecked my well-under-way midlife crises. Being laid off from a good job in a wonderful company, finding oneself alone and drifting can point out a lot of things: a lot of failures in life planning. The big one for me was the realization of how much of my self identity was invested in work. What I did for money held a lot of my sense of “Who I Am.” The loss of my Job felt like a loss of my Me. To go with Isaiah, here, “To me, all my labour seemed useless, my strength worn out in vain.”
I’m told that for men, this investment of self, this submersion of identity in work is a real problem. I can imagine, though, it might be so for women as well. Thus the drive for women to be able to do the same work as men, right? It’s founded not on a quest for equality as such, but rather on a greed for equal cultural capital in a culture that invented and sells that mistake of you-are-what-you-do.
If my things-done are are without value who am I?
In this mindset I took great comfort in podcasts from my friend and from this guy I follow on Twitter, both named Steve. Both of them reminded me that it is in working out my salvation that I live out my faith, not in standing around waiting for God to reveal his plan for my life. In fact both Steves suggested that was a Protestant, Prosperity thing that had nothing to do with anything Christian. There was this one, on Mediocrity, and then these two on the whole “plan for your life” thing (wait for it).
In the Hobbit (the Book), Bard the Bowman has a secret weapon called “The Black Arrow” which never misses its mark and always is found again. Bard uses the Black Arrow to slay the Dragon Smaug – its fated destiny. I’m sure in the horrid Peter Jackson Blasphemy, Bard had, perhaps, a trident warhead and maybe shot it from a large tank. Here’s the way it looked the first time I was ever introduced to Tolkien’s work (1977)
Isaiah is right there, ready for the punchline. In Verse 2 of the same chapter, the prophet sees himself as “a arrow he has chosen out carefully, hidden yet in his quiver.” God’s secret weapon. “Use thee I will, he (God) promises.” The thing is, we do not get to pick how God will use us, nor really, will we know: God may use you to make a post on Facebook that will cause someone to block you – and will haunt them until they go to Church. But you may never know. Steve the Missionary’s third video goes here, because he gets it: say your prayers, go to Mass, be as obedient as you can with the resources God gives you and slowly, but surely, God will make you a blessing. And you will be blessed.
Where, though, does our sense of self come from, if not from the work we do? A Christian’s selfhood is defined in Christ. He is the image of God – and we are in him, united in his sacrifice. OUr selfhood is so invested in him, that we were called “little Christs” by the Romans. St Paul says that he is dead and it is Christ who lives in him: that’s here we all should be. In today’s opening to the Epistle to the Church of Corinth St Paul makes this point. First, he calls the community of Christians he founded the Ekklesia. It is a noun, meaning “called out” but a few words later, he uses the same word as a verb “Kletois” or “summoned to” what? We are called to Holiness, being set apart for God. God has us in the quiver. We’re there, intended to be used. Only it’s not up to us to be used, we just go through life. God will make use in his own time.
If you end up in the side of a dragon, though, I’m gonna be jealous.