On my way to the Men’s Contemplative Prayer Group this morning, I was reminded of something Otis Charles, my Bishop, said to me as I was trying to discern which of two church positions to accept upon completion of my seminary training. One position was an assistant position at a parish in Northern California where I had spent most of my undergraduate and graduate years. Its worship style and ministry were a lot like the churches I had already experienced up that point in my life. The other position was at a large historic church in Boston that was much more traditional and formal than I had ever encountered. Both positions appeared to offer me a place to use and develop my pastoral gifts. Both churches were located in places that would offer my wife a wide variety of opportunities to pursue her own interests. Both places offered family connections that were attractive. As I prayed about what to do, I sensed that I really couldn’t make a mistake.
So I asked my bishop if he had any advice about how I should go about making this decision. He said, “Ask yourself the question, Which position will allow Christ to flourish in your life.” I pondered that question and eventually decided that I would go to Boston. To be honest, Christ might well have flourished in my life in all sorts of ways if I had made the other decision. I’ll never know. But what I sensed about the Boston opportunity was this: this church would challenge me to grow in my capacity to love a church and its people because in many ways they were very different from me. I also sensed that a downtown church would challenge me to grow in my capacity to move towards the poor and marginalized in a way that I had avoided. As it turned out, my capacity to love did grow for these reasons and others.
What about you? Is God calling you down a path that will allow Christ to flourish more in you? A new ministry? Reconnecting with a friend or organization? Moving towards a part of your neighborhood that would challenge you to connect with people different from you? How do you know what path to take? You made need to experiment with different paths and see what happens inside of you. If one of these new directions increases your capacity to love, fills you with joy, and gives you a new sense of peace, you are probably on the right track.
On Christmas we celebrate not only the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, we also celebrate the birth of Christ in us. May this Christmas season open us to new ways to allow Christ’s life to flourish in us.