I love the way the sun changes things. Everything looks so beautiful upon its first illumination with the rising sun. Then, in the middle of the day, everything takes on a sense of normalcy. But then, as the sun begins to set, the light changes the way those normal things look. They become something new.
I just recently finished reading Donald Miller's most recent book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (which is a fantastic read), and he talked about our stories. Near the end of the book, while reflecting on the story of his life, he says, "...When we look back on our lives, what will we remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked to make a day stand out" (page 209).
I hardly think the trip that Joseph, Erin and I took this past weekend was anything close to crazy but I know it will stand out forever, for me.
When we first arrived here, in Cambodia, I remember Joseph telling us about a lady and her family that live in one of the provinces in Northern Cambodia. He told us about how the father of the family recently passed away. The father was the pastor of a United Methodist Church and the family lived in the back of the church building. Now that he is gone, the family has to figure out what their next step is without a very integral part of their family structure.
Joseph was already planning on visiting her at some point as he was planning to help her family financially; for the children's schooling and for some support during their move. Erin and I were really excited when we found out that we would have the opportunity to travel to the province and visit the family with Joseph.
In the five hour car ride it took to reach the province, we talked about a lot of things but one of those things was the ministry of presence. I think we all agreed that is what we want our life's purpose to be. As we reflected on what that looks like, we realized that we often look at the ministry of presence as only a part of our purpose, not our vocation. As we were talking, I realized how much we discount that ministry and deem it as insufficient.
It reminds me, again, of the Mother Teresa quote that has been guiding this whole experience for me. "...Our vocation consists in belonging to Jesus. The work is nothing but a means to express our love for him. That is why the work in itself is not important. What is important is for you to belong to Jesus. And he is the one who offers you the means to express that belonging."
In remembering (again and again, in my case) that my vocation is simply to belong to Jesus, I am freed and challenged to live a life of presence, not just engage in the ministry of presence. After all, I think living out my vocation is being present because, that is what Jesus did.
On that day, we drove for 5 hours and spent almost an hour visiting with the family. That's the closest to crazy that our story got, but I believe it was rich and full to the brim of presence. Living a life of presence, requires us to follow the Lord on the journey--story--that He gives us.
Living a life of presence is embracing our belonging and becoming more like Him.
On that day my story collided into a grander, more beautiful story. The kind of beautiful you see brighter as the sun is setting on a waving and grateful family you just drive 5 hours to come to know.
May you not let your story pass you by--let it stand out, like the world as the sun sets on it and makes it radiate.