I was talking recently with a friend from church who is a potter, a painter, and musician. He has talent in abundance. His studio is a visual feast of color and design. But his stuck point? He cannot seem to focus on actual carry-through. “I want to love and serve God with my life, but I can’t picture myself actually putting a body of work out there,” he admitted sadly. “I have no confidence in my ability to succeed.”
A business coach might see my artist friend as the perfect client: Get a business plan in place, develop a marketing strategy, and create some measurable goals and a feedback loop.
But I suggest that this stuckness is vocational in nature. The necessary questions are not about a business plan and marketing strategy or measurable goals, but about one’s worthiness and willingness to be tangibly fruitful in the reign of God.
I suspect that the vast majority of baptized men and women wrestle with their worthiness and willingness to be fruitful in their lives to the measure God has in mind.
In the Gospel of John we hear Jesus make two statements of enormous invitation and equally enormous challenge: “I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” And in equal generosity, and with quite serious intent, he says, “It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (see John 10:10, 15:16). Clearly, “Yes but” is not an appropriate response to such a generous invitation.
Yes, this divine invitation to fruitfulness is unimaginable, and it challenges every one of us to the core. We live in a culture that glamorizes exceptionalism but in fact socially rewards mediocrity. “Don’t make waves,” we often hear. “Fit in.”
But neither you nor I were anointed in Christ to merely “fit in.” Being small, afraid to reveal to our world the utter and unexplainable generosity of God through our lives and labors, deprives our world of God’s great good. Being small diminishes the body of Christ of which we are a part, and works against the revelation of the reign of God in our place and time.
The vocational truth is this: Your fruitfulness is evidence of real human participation in divine life. This is the shocking reality of Christian faith—humankind’s actual participation, here and now, in divine life. Jesus refused, at great price, to back down from this vocational truth. Nor are we vocationally free to diminish God’s unexplainable intentions.
In the Gospel of Matthew we hear Jesus speak an encouraging word: “Every good tree bears good fruit. … A good tree cannot bear bad fruit” (see Matthew 7:17-18). We are not bad trees bearing bad fruit. We are not even mediocre trees by any account. No, we were anointed to offer to our world, through our lives and labors, the revelation of the astonishing abundance of God. This was the point of Jesus’ own life and labors.
In short, we will indeed be measured by our fruitfulness—not whether we turned out “enough” pots or paintings, business plans or marketing strategies, or wholesome meals or loads of laundry. Rather, we will be measured by whether we were faithful to our unique and astonishing capacity for fruitbearing. Vocationally, the real challenge is not to produce “enough,” as though we might know how much “enough” is. The real challenge, vocationally, is to defend at all times that interior space where the Holy Spirit can be at work and fruitful through us. Our work, vocationally, is to live in a way that wouldn’t make sense if God did not exist!
Every one of us has been anointed for a purpose, and that purpose, until the moment of our last breath, is to give the Holy Spirit unqualified freedom to accomplish through us what we cannot yet imagine.
Copyright 2013 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.