I have had the great privilege of pilgrimage the past three weeks in Montreat, North Carolina. Over this time I have chaperoned high schoolers for a youth conference, worked with senior high Bible study for the Worship and Music Conference (a big THANK YOU to the session for granting me that opportunity!), and spent hours with members of our own congregation who attended the Worship and Music Conference as well.
These weeks also afforded me the opportunity to encounter many of my heroes of the Church, people who have shaped my Christian identity and who continue to shape the person I wish to be in Christ. They are former pastors in my life, mentors, preachers whose words have reshaped my vision of God’s work in the world, and friends who have grown up into ministry with me.
And so as I sit by the waterfall at Lake Susan outside the Huckleberry Snack Shop, I am left pondering what it is that causes us to welcome people into our lives as heroes, mentors, and friends. What do we look for in people when we need someone to look up to or someone to listen to us or someone to guide us?
The common denominator among the cloud of witnesses who I have been surrounded by this week is their constancy of character. They are men and women who strive to be people of honesty, who live by their values in private as well as in public. Learning to be who we are consistently, I think, is one of the lifelong challenges of the Christian life, and these people I have been with this week have reminded me of the great opportunity we have as children of God to cultivate our truest lives.
That requires trust in God’s good word of creation, that we are made in God’s image. If we trust the poetry of the Psalmist that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” then there is something in each of us that God has crafted for God’s glory. Our task, therefore, is to immerse ourselves into discovery of how we grow into the people God has crafted us to be. That can be a challenge when outside pressures, feelings of inadequacy, unforeseen family crises, or major life transitions seem to create giant potholes that must be navigated along our journey of faith.
Yet that is the gift of the Church for each of us, a place to encounter our fears and our shortfalls, to hear a word of grace, to hear again from God that we are “very good” and to grow into people whose lives become a consistent Christian witness.
Rabbi Zusha, an eighteenth century Hasidic Jewish luminary, is quoted as saying, “When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Abraham?’ I’ll say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities. If they say, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I’ll say I didn’t have Moses’ leadership abilities. For every such question, I’ll have an answer. But if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that, I’ll have no answer.” May we strive to grow into the people God has made us to be, discovering our goodness, celebrating our unique identities, and growing into our truest selves which glorifies our Lord and makes God smile.