Saturday, March 13, 2010

Doing Big Things for God (or maybe not)

How many times do you hear a child say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be the leader of a band that plays in the local pub’ or ‘I want to play cricket for the local cricket team’ or ‘I want to have a lead role in a local production’.

It doesn’t happen very often. Usually it’s ‘I want to have a number one album on the charts’ or ‘I want to play cricket for Australia’ or ‘I want to win an Oscar’.

Children dream big. Which may be a good thing. My son is convinced he’s going to win Wimbledon one day. Who knows? Maybe he will. But maybe he won’t. And does it really matter if he doesn’t?

My friend who just died, at the age of 82, used to play tennis. And that ‘used to’ was pretty recently. She played on a regular basis right up to last year. When they took her casket out at the funeral, the ladies from her tennis club did a salute with tennis rackets.

And to me, that’s a very successful tennis player. Not one who wins the major tournaments and gets interviewed for sports magazines. But one who plays tennis and enjoys tennis for her entire life.

A lot of people talk about God’s purpose for their life as if they just presume it’s going to be something big. They become a Christian and tell God they’re willing to do whatever He wants them to do. But what they’re thinking is ‘I’m willing to become a famous missionary or lead thousands of people to God or write a best-selling Christian book’.

A saying that is used a lot in the Pentecostal Church is ‘God has big things planned for your life.’ Maybe he does. But what if he just has little things? Are we still so eager to follow God’s plan for our lives if it involves nothing more than reading the bible, praying and living a very ordinary life?

I was listening to a podcast where somebody asked what she could do to reconcile the things God wants her to do with the things that she has to do (such as take the children to school and keep the house clean). The person answered her by saying ‘Maybe those things you have to do are the things God wants you to do’.

If God wants us to do big things for Him, that that would be difficult. Big things usually involve a lot of sacrifice. And it can be hard to be willing to make those sacrifices. Or to step out of comfort zone. Or to place ourselves in challenging situations.

But sometimes the biggest sacrifice we can make is to give up our dreams of being somebody important.

Comfort zones aren’t always such comfortable places to live in. They’re not the stuff that dreams are made of. Sometimes when we tell God we’re willing to step out of our comfort zone, it’s because that’s where we want to go.

And it’s where the world tells us we have to go. We are told to dream big, to reach for the stars, to fulfil our potential. Try telling someone that your only goal is just to stay at home and follow God in your own simple, ordinary way, and you get some very strange looks.

I was having this conversation with a friend once. And he was telling me that God has a plan for my life and that God has big things in store for me and that, whatever I’m hoping for, God can make it happen. So he asked me what I wanted. I said nothing really. I honestly couldn’t think of anything at the time. And he kept pushing and pushing, until eventually I thought of something. And then he said something along the lines of, ‘God will make that happen for you. Because God wants to give you your heart’s desire.’

The problem with the whole ‘God will give you your hearts desire’ approach is that most people want to be someone important. Someone who does big things for God. Someone who is recognised.

But we can’t all have that. The people who do stand out as doing great things for God stand out because they were different. If everyone did it, there wouldn’t be anything to recognise.

If every single child who wanted to record a number one song on the charts actually did it, there’d be a lot of number one songs. You’d be watching the top 30, and when they got to number one, they’d have to say and here are our 6,000 songs that are in equal position for the number one place. There’s only so many places in the Australian cricket team. If all the young boys who want to play for Australia actually got in, we’d need about 100 cricket teams. And then being in one wouldn’t be that big a deal.

And although I think dreaming big can be good, sometimes it can let us down. We dream so big that we’re disappointed when we receive anything less than the very best. Boys who wanted to play for the Australian cricket team no longer even play cricket. Girls who wanted to record a number one song don’t even sing in the shower. We give up completely because we didn’t get exactly what we wanted.

When I was younger, I wanted to write a novel that would win the Miles Franklin award. That was my lifelong goal. I know now that that is never going to happen. I’m not good enough. And I’ll be honest and say that sometimes that hurts. Sometimes I even feel like giving up writing altogether. Why bother, as I’m not going to do anything ‘big’ with it?

Sometimes (not quite so often thankfully) I feel the same about my faith. I’m never going to do anything ‘big’ for God. I’m never going to be an important person in his plans. I’m never even going to do an exceptional job of following Christ.

When I was in year nine at school, I got a B for English. And it really crushed me. And after that, I gave up a little bit. Who wants to get a B? I had been a straight A student until then. It almost felt like there was no point in trying if I couldn’t get all As.

Well if God was giving out grades for how well people followed Christ, I think I’d be getting mostly Ds, sometimes Cs and sometimes Es. And I’m never going to get an A, no matter how hard I try.

But that shouldn’t be a reason to just give up. Maybe I won’t ever do something ‘big’ for God. Maybe I’ll never be a straight A Christian. But maybe that was never God’s plan for me anyway. Maybe God’s plan for me is for me to just keeping on doing the little things. And to keep on trying my best.

But most of all, to just keep on. Like my friend with her tennis, to still be playing the game at the end of my life.

This didn’t start off as a post about perseverance. It just kind of ended up that way. But as it seems to have drifted off into that direction, I will end with these words that somebody else wrote to me just recently.

Maybe my goal in life should simply be to:

Keep the Faith.

And that sounds like as good an excuse as any for a Bon Jovi song:


  1. Dear Liz,

    I thought I would have a look at and listen to this Bon Jovi clip.

    The line that struck me most was:

    Don't you let your love turn to hate.

    Doesn't that say it all? It makes me recall the voice I heard in my head a while ago now, 'Get off Orble. Don't let your love turn to hate.'

    Maybe Jon Bon Jovi was channeling me? In a nice Catholic way.

    But as I was listening to the intro, and these words came up:

    Forgive your wayward son.

    It reminded me of one of my favourite Catholic Hymns, 'God of Mercy and Compassion'.

    It has to be sung with gusto. And you have to shed copious amounts of tears.

    On an aside, when St Padre Pio (the great Italian stigmastist) first joined the Franciscans, the brothers put a towel on the floor in front of him during his morning meditations, because all he did was shed tears for the entire half an hour. I think it was a Franciscan OH&S policy.

    Oh, to have been graced with a great singing voice, but never mind. It's imperative that you drown out the old biddies singing their hearts out in the chapel when this hymn is sung.

    And it's interesting how comparative the lyrics of this Bon Jovi song are to God of Mercy and Compassion. There's even a Father, Father line in them.

    We love modern music because we've never been introduced to sacred music in the right surroundings.

    Here's the intro to it. I'm sure you could find the tune on the net.

    God of mercy and compassion,
    Look with pity upon me,
    Father, let me call Thee Father,
    'Tis Thy child returns to Thee.

    Jesus, Lord, I ask for mercy;
    Let me not implore in vain;
    All my sins, I now detest them,
    Never will I sin again.

    Anyway, I'll now turn my attention to what you wrote, which is obviously better than what Helen Demidenko wrote (and she won the Miles Franklin, and the Vogel, but was eventually caught out as a fraud, charlatan and plagiarist). A cut-and-paster.

    David ...

  2. Hi David,

    My favourite line from 'Keep the Faith' is the first line from when he starts speaking and says, 'I've been walking in the footsteps of society's lies.'

    Another part I like is:

    And every night we fall from grace.
    It's hard with the world in your face,
    Trying to hold on, trying to hold on.

    I found God of Mercy and Compassion on YouTube and listened to two versions of it. The verse that struck me the most was:

    See our Savior, bleeding, dying,
    On the cross of Calvary;
    To that cross my sins have nail'd Him,
    Yet He bleeds and dies for me.

    We hardly ever sing old Catholic hymns in church. We have two books, a modern hymn book and an old hymn book. And most of the hymns we sing come from the new hymn book.

    Maybe I do still have a chance to win the Miles Franklin award. All I have to do is cut, paste and lie. Perhaps pretend that I'm NOT half-Ukrainian.

    I bought Helen Demidenko's book and read it shortly after she won the Miles Franklin award - so before the truth came out. And it made an impact on me because I am half-Ukrainian. When it was discovered she was really Helen Darville, I felt very cheated.


  3. Dear Liz,

    If you truly want to become a saint?

    Get the hell out of the modern Catholic Church. Sacrifice everything in life to go to the real Mass.

    If you don't?

    I'll still be your friend.

    David ..

  4. Hi David,

    It wouldn't just be me doing the sacrificing.

    Besides which, I think being a saint is a bit beyond me. At the moment, I'm struggling just to hold onto what I'm doing.

    From your un-saintly friend,


  5. Dear Liz,

    I'll fly down to the Canberra region and smack you around the head if you ever say, being a saint is beyond me, again. (That's a joke).

    But on a serious note? The only thing God asks us to really give up is our will. Because that's the only thing we truly possess in this life. (I think St John of the Cross is channeling me. That's how he speaks).

    The day people realise that we only possess one thing in our lives that will last, and that is our will? That 'will' be a blessed day.

    I get the impression you had a hard day. That's okay. It happens to us all.

    As to you being un-saintly? You are more saintly to me than most women I have ever met in my life. You're just having a bad day.

    Jesus had a bad day. They called it 'Good' Friday.

    Keep the Faith, my little Bon Jovi fan.

    And remember this. If David loves you, which he does in a holy way. God loves you infinitely more.

    I value our friendship, albeit we have never met. I have told you time and time again, you are a woman of good will. So your will is being tested? Keep the Faith.

    David ...

  6. Dear David,

    That is probably the nicest comment I have ever received on my blog. Even though you started off by saying you would smack me around the head if I said being a saint was beyond me again.

    Although, if I thought you were serious, I'd be tempted to say it again, just so I could finally meet you.

    Thank you.




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