By Susan K. Smith,
In an article about Colin Kaepernick which appeared in GQ, Christopher Petrella, a writer and scholar at Bates College, quoted the late Howard Thurman, who said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive?”
The question struck a chord. For many reasons, too many of us do not know “what makes us come alive,” and so instead of thriving in life, with the few days we have, we merely survive. The song within us, different for us all and given to us by God, goes unsung.
It is not always the case, but many times it is the case that doing what makes us come alive requires that we let go of something, or someone in our lives. We have to let go of that which has made us comfortable and complacent and do the thing which will feed our souls and make God smile as well.
I know a woman who was the head of a very successful non-profit. She took a stand on an issue which caused her board to discipline her and they wanted to force her to apologize for what she had said and done. She decided she could not do that and resigned.
There she was, talented, successful – and out of work. She applied to different jobs but –nothing. Then one day she said, “I have always wanted to be a butcher.” Out of the blue she shared that. I just about choked on my coffee.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’ve always been fascinated by how meat is cut and how butchers know how to give you exactly what you ask for. I’m going to see if I can do that.” Not long afterward, she did land a job as a butcher and has quickly “moved up” in the field. She proudly shows pictures of sides of cows or pigs that she has cut and her heart seems to burst with pride.
She is doing what makes her come alive. She doesn’t make nearly the money she used to make, but it doesn’t bother her. She meets a whole new group of people and she is loving it. Her life has changed in a way she never expected it would.
This woman was lucky, in that she had an inkling of what that “thing” was. Many of us do not. Or, if we do know, we dare not think about it too much because we are afraid of the consequences of our moving into the unknown.
Colin Kaepernick is out of work. He has been locked out of the NFL. He is vilified daily and criticized regularly. He has lost the “job” that he had, but has picked up his life. He probably feels the space in his spirit where playing football was front and center, but he also feels his spirit which is keeping him going because fighting injustice, making a bold statement about it – apparently makes him come alive. Working to help others is making him come alive.
If you are one of the few who knows what would make you come alive, you are blessed; many of us do not know what that thing is but what we do know is that we are not settled, not at peace with what we are doing or where we are. Our spirits do not lie to us; they breathe on their own and when our breathing is out of sync with the breathing of our spirit, we feel it.
It does not matter, in the end, what other people say to us or about us when we decide to submit to the breathing of our spirits and to live life a new way. We begin to live the words of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew, “So, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things and your heavenly Father/Mother knows that you need them. But seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
If we decide to trust God enough and either do what makes us come alive or at least enter into a time of discernment so that we get in touch with what makes us come alive, we will experience God and the miraculous capacity and eagerness of God to make our hearts sing, even as we deal with what we lose in order to capture what we are to gain. Doing what makes us come alive is a gift. We need to find it, and do it, risks and potential losses notwithstanding.
God is there, always. And when we decide to sing the song God put inside of each of us, God will smile because she will see that we have realized that we trust Her in a way that we hadn’t before. My friend who is cutting meat has a smile on her face that is different than what it was. It’s almost a grin. In fact, it is a grin, a divine grin given to her by God who is comforted that this woman trusted God enough to move into the space which God created just for her.
All of us have those spaces. It is up to us to decide to go to them and experience life abundantly before our days run out.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad