– By Alex Newman
I have a “thing” about Ann Voskamp. It’s called envy. Not only of her significant writing ability, but her stillness and openness to the Holy Spirit as well. We are polar opposites – me impatient and easily irritated versus her life on the farm which is in the moment as she meditates over the laundry basket.
Too willing to give in to anxiety – juggling schedules and worrying about things beyond my control – I forget those sparrows and lilies (Matthew 6:25). Not that Voskamp spends her entire day in contemplative prayer – with six children and a farm to oversee with her husband she has more than enough to do – but her writing has that quality which indicates a nature that is calm at its core. This is what’s thoroughly and utterly beyond me.
But I’m also envious of those Christians who act passionately and unstintingly on what they feel called to. Take Erinn Oxford, for example, who refused to say die when funding for Dale Ministries dried up, instead going knocking on doors to find partners in her Parkdale neighbourhood.
Or John Pritchard, who felt called – after 20-plus years in traditional ministry – to pick up his mat and travel to Africa to see how they followed Christ, returning to Calgary to start a radical small group movement called The Edge. He and his growing ministry (at last count they had 25 home churches and a couple more in the making) take it to the streets or gather in parks – weather permitting – to engage passersby in matters of life.
Or Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian-born climatologist who just made Time magazine’s 100 most influential list. She is an evangelical Christian professor at Texas Tech University, married to an evangelical pastor. She believes in the creator God, the divinity of Christ and the resurrection. But she also believes that our climate is changing in rapid and frightening ways, and tirelessly communicates that to the world. (You can see a piece on her in an upcoming issue of FT.)
These are Christians who manage to fully live their faith, being in the world but not of it. Like contemplatives, these powerhouses of action trust so completely in God that they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them.
And what about the rest of us who float between being contemplative and energetic? Is saying we do what we can just an excuse for not making a commitment to either one way of life or the other? But for most of us who work regular jobs in this world have to be content with doing what we can. Eugenie McMullan makes the communion bread for her church, something she started almost 40 years ago in thanksgiving for being able to turn the pain of her messy life over to God. Erinn Oxford tells about the $73 collected by the people at Dale when her husband sought treatment outside Canada for his debilitating MS. The widow’s mite.
Mother Teresa put it best in a letter she once wrote: “All God’s gifts are good, but they are not all the same. As I often say to people who tell me that they would like to serve the poor as I do, “What I can do, you cannot. What you can do, I cannot. But together we can do something beautiful for God.”
Alex Newman of Toronto is a senior writer with Faith Today. Her website is www.integritycommunications.ca.