For such a time as this…
The best stories are the ones with conflict. Why? Because it’s creating an unresolved tension that keeps us interested. Will they solve the problem? Will they escape death once more? “Find out next time…” We live for conflict, even though some of us may not enjoy the present reality of it, outside of a fictional world. I’m sure we can all think of our favorite dramas/stories that involve the protagonist realizing their moment of resolving the conflict has finally come. It’s in their hands. In their time. In the present moment. There’s a shift from not regretting past mistakes and not living in future fears that resides right in the middle of the two times: The shift is realizing the present moment is really we have.
I’ve just finished reading the book of Esther (in the Old Testament for anyone curious) and I was captured, again, by Mordecai’s response to the timely position of Esther as Queenwhen there was a threat against the Jews. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)
Last week I wrote about the unsettled tension in living between the “now” and “not yet” by drawing upon the richness of Autumn, a season of letting go, looking forward, and living in the present for the sake of enjoying all today has to offer. I’ll admit, this is one of my biggest struggles: Living in the present. Living as though this were my moment, my time, or for such a time as this. Esther kind of stumbled into the position of Queen, and Mordecai, who raised her as his own daughter, thinks the whole thing is timely. For there had been a plot to annihilate the Jews, and Queen Esther (also a Jew), had the potential power to stop it. There was a sobering moment of the present reality for Mordecai and for Esther, and it’s something I wish to gain myself.
So much of who I am is based upon on what I do for a living, but it’s not mostly what or who I am. I’ve worked my whole life to become a pastor. Like I’ve said previously, I’m still a pastor, but I’m not “pastoring.” It’s still apart of my identity, yet, I’m in a new season that calls on me to have courage, trust in the Lord’s work in my life, and be mostly what and who I am. My identity cannot be in only what I do, for that way has proven to be a shallow puddle of letting others down. My identity, as a follower of Jesus is in Him, to be like Him, to love like Him. That way requires taking up the cross, denying myself, and following Him.
That’s easier said than done, sometimes, especially when living in between the “now” and “not yet,” and living in conflict and tension. (But remember conflict is what draws us into a good story)
The conflict in my story is: internal and personal. When I’m not performing in congruence with my vocational profession, then my identity is shaken and internal conflict ensues. My anxiety and worry creeps on me like the haunting of a ghost. It frightens me, and I can’t seem to move because of either regret of the past or fear of the future. But, with if these moments of debilitating stillness are actually moments for us, the protagonist of our own stories, to step up and step out with the last bit of courage we may have…even if it’s not much at all.
In reading “The Lord of the Rings” (finished “The Hobbit” last year), Frodo’s thoughts about realizing the present moment and internal conflict is fascinating:
“There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow.” (pg. 185)
When paralyzed by regret of past mistakes and fear of future scenarios, where do I actually live? I live in this moment, and it’s all I have, really. What will I do with it? Will I pray Psalm 90:12, “teach us to number our days, Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom?” Will I pray Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” Will I pray the beginning of Psalm 22, “Why, oh Lord, have your forsaken me?”
For me, with this internal struggle of regathering my identity in Jesus in this new season, I’ve attempted and failed miserably to pray and live Psalm 37: “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.” (Read the remainder of it for some really good stuff.)
Maybe this moment of struggle is a moment like Esther’s or Frodo’s, when the smallest seed of hidden courage is actually about to sprout and emerge from the soil as though the sun was only shining for the seed, and the seed only. I imagine the change from dormant seed to a tiny sprout involves an extreme environmental change from the dark and cold soil to the awareness of the sun’s brightness calling forth life.
Maybe that’s where I am. Maybe that’s where you are. If so, then what an amazing story is yet to be told. One of conflict, resolution, and a time pausing moment in which the main character realizes their life’s purpose is discovered when living in this present moment, for such a time as this.
I wonder what happens next…