The last book I read of the last year was Big Magic – Liz Gilbert’s manifesto on living the creative life. It’s a great book for people trying to produce art and beauty with their lives, but it also has plenty to say to anyone trying to actually make a life instead of watching life happen to them. It is chocked full of good advice, and it reminds us again and again that you can’t experience the life you want to live unless you are willing to work for it. This, or course, is a really disappointing truth that comes with adulthood.
Maybe its coincidence – although as an NCIS watcher Gibbs has taught me not to believe in coincidences – but it wasn’t long after I had finished the book that I got hit with a heavy dose of insomnia. In the midst of tossing and turning a word came flashing into my mind, so seemingly loud and bright, that I bolted out of the bed and went to my journal because I had to write it down.
Pursuit – a word I hadn’t thought about in a really long time.
2015, as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t exactly a banner year in our household. It was so jam-packed with high-pressure and high-tension events that it felt like we didn’t have to time to plan or think or dream or hope at all. All we could do was pick our ourselves off the mat and do everything we could to make it to the next day. But as I’ve been thinking about this year and dreaming about what it could be about, the word I hope we will use to describe 2016 as 2017 comes around is that old word – pursuit.
Pursuit came screaming back into my conscience because what I want more than anything else is probably what you want too – to chase and pursue, with disciplined commitment and purposeful abandon, the things that matter. My friend Mary framed this for me the other day on Facebook, of all places, when she quoted the great spiritual writer, the late Dallas Willard: “What matters is not the accomplishments you achieve, what matters is the person you become.”
We can only become the person that God has created us for through pursuit, and what I want to pursue is a fuller and truer life with God. I want 2016 to be about chasing deeper Resurrection faith by growing and developing friendships and relationships that will help me grow into the unique person God has created me to be. I want to pursue connections and partnerships here in my neighborhood so we can dream those big God-shaped dreams about what God wants for this small part of the cosmos. Instead of letting life sweep over me through images of television and posts on twitter I want to dive into reading and writing so I can create the art and the life God wants to make in and through me.
Jesus, of course, talked a lot about pursuit; pursuit is just another way to describe what he asked people to do all the time – follow me. He talked about it a lot, but maybe most famously in a story about a pearl. There are some things, he told us, that are worth giving everything for, there are some things worth making sacrifices to have, there are some things that are worth going after with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Intention has become an important word for me in thinking and writing and preaching about faith. The faith we talk about takes actual shape when we make real and concrete choices that put us in position to receive God’s grace. So many of us talk about wanting to experience a deeper life with God and want to walk more closely with Jesus. But we find ourselves in the same place year after year because we don’t pursue the goal by making intentional life choices to structure and order the ordinary and boring details of our lives to make it happen.
Pursuit and intention go to happen. Because pursuing something is choosing to chase the things that matter by doing everything we can to claim the life we want. Real change doesn’t happen by waiting around and hoping that change and a better life will come to us.
God can, of course, do whatever God wants – that is what it means to believe in a God who forms the world out of chaos and brings life from the dead. But almost everyone I know who has experienced the life-changing grace of God says that they experienced it once they got serious about pursuing the life they wanted and doing whatever it took to create the conditions in their lives for God to show up.
That’s what Paul was trying to tell his friends in Corinth, friends who seriously needed to pursue a new life and a better life with God – Run in such a way to get the prize.
I think that too many of us are guilty of just expecting and waiting for God to blast into our lives with the miracle that will lead us to the great life of faith we have always dreamed of but never really worked for. But when you read the Bible, that’s rarely how it works.
Instead, what we know is true in faith is also true in the creative life and in the life of our relationships and almost any life worth having – we can only grab hold of the life that truly is life by chasing after it.
So whatever it is that you truly want this year, my hope and prayer is that you will pursue it with discipline and with passion. May we all pursue our lives with purpose and become who God wants us to be. Because the life God wants for us is something worth seeking and worth finding.