Way back in the 1930s there was a young Jesuit priest by the name of Walter Ciszek. A former gang member, he volunteered to serve as a missionary to the Soviet Union, secretly crossing the borders into Russia in 1940 and discreetly conducting religious ministry while working as an unskilled logger. He was arrested on charges of spying in 1941, tortured, and after spending a considerable time in solitary confinement, was ultimately sentenced to 15 years hard labour in the Gulag, working in the mines for much of that time. The descriptions of captivity in his memoirs are brutal.
After nearly 23 years of imprisonment, he was finally exchanged for two Soviet spies and returned to America in 1963. One of the books he wrote following his release was entitled He Leadeth Me – a remarkable account of how he managed to hold on to faith and find God in the midst of some of the most ruthless conditions on earth.
His revelatory conclusion: God’s great calling for our life is not some deep, mystical unknowable to be wrestled over and figured out. God’s master plan is more like what’s in front of us every single day. If I find myself in the Gulag, that must be where God wants me. If I’m slogging down the mines, God must have a plan for me there. The key to a flourishing life is not to ache over an unachieved future, but instead to look deeply at the people and places where we find ourselves now, and be the very best we can be in the midst of it.
Too often I end up focussing on what might happen tomorrow rather than what is happening today. If I want to know God’s great plan for my life, it’s right in front of me. Now.
Who is in my world? What work needs to be done? How can I make the most outstanding contribution where I am?
Today begins four posts, loosely based on the life of Joseph in the Bible – a man with a most extraordinary story to tell. The key to his fruitfulness: being as faithful, diligent and disciplined in the prison as he was as Prime Minister. Too many people, including and especially myself, want the glory of the latter without the ignobility of the former.
I hate to break it to you, but God’s not called you to be a superhero. Jesus is the only one of those. Instead, healthy discipleship involves being the very best mother, father, customer, employee, cup-of-tea bringer, conversationalist, present-buyer, money-sharer, listening ear, teacher, toilet cleaner, encouraging servant that you can be. So if you want to live with a sense of calling, just look deep into what’s going on in your world. I’m sure there’s a myriad of opportunities for greatness.
Image: CC Jay Mantri