Poet Taylor Mali’s sarcastic response to a question about where his favorite place to write is, is humorous.
I also think it is wise and has wider implications.
The things we do in life. The decisions we make. The tasks we fulfill. The dreams we seek to achieve. They often don’t happen in some dramatic or epic fashion. They do, do that. But not always. Some come just by sitting at a desk, staring at a screen, and moving your fingers over a keyboard. The daily grind, so to speak.
Now, I don’t mean joyless. But I do mean that they are usually relatively repetitive and mundane.
Whatever it is that you want to do or be, hope to do or be, and dream to do or be, don’t wait for the right moment.
That could be your problem. Just do it.
Practice. Endure. Do what you have been doing and continue doing it. Or stop what you have been doing and do something else.
This works for spiritual disciplines and our celebrity Christian culture as well.
We want our prayers to get answered yesterday. We want our preaching to be on the biggest stage. We want our music to sell. We want to quit falling into the same sinful patterns. We want the other guy’s book deal. We want our church to be the biggest and the best. We want to be looked up to and emulated.
And when we ask these kinds of questions to our favorite authors or preachers or celebrities or great dads or wise stewards we often expect an out-of-this-world answer, but often its day-to-day endurance and faithfulness that it is the answer.
We want a great poet like Taylor to give us the magic key. But he doesn’t. His answer is pretty boring.
Sure there are Damascus Road experiences. We love to talk and hear about those. We like it when St. Paul meets Jesus in blinding light. We just don’t like the beatings that follow so much…
Want to be a great dad? Be a dad, minus the great, consistently. The great comes from days upon days, years upon years, and decades upon decades of just being one. Want to be a great writer, a great preacher, a great wife, a great whatever? Same equation. In some sense, forget about being great. Just be faithful. In other words, be godly. And do that in all you do.
Godliness is never an overnight process. Greatness has all the flash, while godliness simmers under the surface. Greatness may make the newspapers of one generation, but godliness has a lasting impact that ripples through many generations. Americans, even Christian ones, crave the great but not the godly.
How do we do this? How do we get godly? As pragmatists, we want to know this too.
Well, practically it comes not at first from doing at all. It comes from trusting. Trusting Jesus with our successes and with our failures. Believing in him for our past, present, and future.
The how is not, be like Jesus. Of course, as Christians, we should shoot for this. But that isn’t the gospel. No one becomes a Christian that way. The first step of saving faith is admitting your not Jesus and trusting the real One.
He is the one who said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved”. And we endure by faith. Faith in him, that is.
So being great at anything comes through endurance and it may not end with your name in lights in this world, but if it ends with “Well Done” in the next that’s all you really need.