Recently Gina received a copy of a column by David Brooks of the New York Times. It was dated May 31, 2011. She had received it from her good friend, Kathy. Brooks notes the graduation addresses/advice being offered to graduates seems to echo themes we expect from such events – graduates being encouraged to, “March to your own drummer!” “Chart your own course!” “Follow your passion”, “Follow your dreams and find yourself.” I have graduated from high school, university and I have received a Master’s Degree. At each of those celebrations, sentiments like those noted by Brooks were woven into the remarks.
Brooks notes, however, that more often than not, we find ourselves, not by looking within and following “our dreams” but rather by looking without, around us, by encountering a problem, a time of difficulty or struggle, and then we begin to figure out who we are and the stuff of which we are made. He notes, “Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.”
So often today we emphasize personal fulfillment, finding out who we really are, and then pursuing that dream, goal or objective. The problem with a perfect image of what our lives, or those of our children, should look like, is that we seldom allow for the curve balls, issues, difficulties, events that permanently change us and the host of wonderful surprises that are part of life
Jesus, too, encountered those who were seeking to follow their dreams, march to their own drummer and to find out their true identity – and Jesus told them that the way to embark on that journey is to embrace the simple statement, “It’s not about you!” Jesus said that to find who we are, we must be willing to surrender to God who we think we are, who we want others to think we are, what we think is important, the criteria by which we judge ourselves and others. Lay all of that down, He tells us, and we can then become the children of God we are meant to be all along – we can claim our true identity.
This discovery of Jesus Christ and his gospel leads to soul-searching about who we love, the type of work we wish to do, the time we give to our spiritual lives, our relationship with wealth, our use of free time, use of alcohol/drugs, and how we treat others. At least that’s the hope.
Brooks concludes, “Today’s grads enter a culture that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.”
Jesus says, ‘Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.'” (Matthew 10:38-40)