Authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them—and receive them from others when we are in need.
Several of my hours each week are dedicated to conversations, Bible studies or classes with college students. Graduating seniors are in the thick of big questions right now, and I could not begin to calculate how many hundreds of times I have had the "so what should I do with my life?" conversation.
I try hard to bring fresh eyes to each one of those encounters, firmly avoiding a "been there, done that" attitude. To be sure, I have to work hard at times to suppress an eye roll (or two) when I hear some of them express what they think are original thoughts, but overall, I find their earnest searching to be refreshing.
At the top is a quote by a favorite author of mine that sums up much of what my thoughts are when I share with those students. Determining calling and career are obviously important, but I have come to believe that the community one lives in trumps them all, and is often the one of the main decisions they neglect.
Certainly, I am not encouraging students to keep "livin' the dream" and bunk down with 8 of their best friends in a two-bedroom apartment, suffering together through mindless barista jobs, drinking wine and sharing deep thoughts every night... But I am also not pressing them to dive right in to the fast-track career trajectory, ignoring questions of faith community and service.
Palmer captures it perfectly, and as I now look back some thirty (gulp!) years after graduating from college, I can say that what has given me the most meaning in my life (and strength, joy, and challenge) has been the community in which I have lived. I'm not talking about the city or town where one resides... I am talking about the group of people one is "doing life with" week after week.
Though the group has changed over time, in the last five years God has been slowly shaping a very safe, nurturing, thought-provoking group of people in which I get to live and work. In my reading this morning from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, these words are timely:
Humility is the glue of our relationships. Humility is the foundation of community and family and friendship and love. Humility comes from understanding my place in the universe.
I encourage graduating seniors (and those muddling through their first year or two after college graduation) to look for (and help to shape) a community that is not held together by affinity (what things do we have in common?) or memories (we were all in this youth group or graduated from this college) but by mission. First we are called to Jesus, and second we are called to serve... that is the essence of the Great Command: "'The first is... you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Mark 12:30-31)
We love God by loving our neighbor, but the only way I can really love my neighbor is by loving God. It is a wonderful, interconnected, complicated, compelling, and at times exhausting pursuit. Jesus models all of this to us in the actions of his final week of earthly ministry. May we all contemplate those with fresh eyes and ears in our approach to Easter.