“We’re going to build a home for a family that doesn’t have one.”
I’ve had the privilege of participating in a number of service trips in my career in Jesuit education and each one begins with a question: “What’re you going there do to?” In the past, my response to this question has echoed the one above, but in recent years it has changed, a lot. My answer now is more like, “We have an opportunity to volunteer with a great organization. We’ll be part of a team that collaborates with the local community to provide housing.” Less focus on what I’m providing, less spotlight on me, more focus on the greater mission of which I am a member.
As I grow older and more aware of my place in this world, I have become more comfortable with knowing my place and playing my part – something Jesus showed even as a young boy. Luke describes the scene when his parents lost him only to find him in the temple with the teachers:
When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
As I continue to grow in my curiosity and reverence of Jesus, I am often moved by his lack of ego but an overflowing sense of confidence. It’s humble confidence or better yet, helpful confidence. He knows it’s not about him, but he also knows he has a purpose. What makes this remarkable is that he is the Savior but he still insists on finding ways to give credit to how God is working in his life or the people.
I have also had the privilege of participating in a number of conversations about deeply personal experiences in my various ministry roles and I’ve learned each should begin with a similar internal inquiry: “What’re you here to do?”
When I see someone in the hall and stop for a moment to talk, call someone, or even participate in a breakout group or any of the many interactions on a daily basis:
What’re you here to do?
Am I here to listen? Learn? Preach? and God forbid…am I here to save?
St. Ignatius says that we were “…created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.” Oh how badly I have misread and lived this at times.
Ignatius does NOT say we were created to share how great we are with others, make sure they hear us, and as a byproduct of being in our presence, allow their soul to be saved by us.
This way of proceeding only asserts dominance and as a white male I admit, at times I have communicated hints of this in how I’ve approached entering into spaces of service or collaboration. This is an impediment to building trust and promoting true partnership. If I feel like I have it all figured out and all I’m here to do is showcase this then it’s not a service trip, it’s not a conversation, it’s not a partnership – it’s a performance.
When I overestimate my ability or role, I underestimate God’s power. Living this way takes up so much space that there is little room for anyone else to shine.
So what’s the antidote? Embracing these words:
The role of Savior is already taken.
Now, I know that not all who are reading this ascribe this title to Jesus so if you don’t, then it’s simply the realization that we should all be supportive of someone else having the answer, someone else having it all together or being the leader. Having that realization has transformed how I evaluate a meaningful day or even a meaningful conversation. It has changed how I live my life as a member of a global community.
I am not the end.
I am not the answer.
But I can seek to better understand my role, and walk with you on this journey with God.