Saturday, October 13, 2012

as Spikenard upon His feet

The cards were laid and my task was simple: the GAPers were going to have an international dinner, and I was in charge of baking the apple pie. The completion of this task with absolute perfection was paramount, and my initial reluctance to sign on to the task developed into excitement. Perhaps I couldn't communicate, or give talks, or lead Bible studies, or even play guitar... but maybe I could bake an apple pie. And if I could make a pie, all would be justified and the whole world would know that I had, and could, accomplish something. I set about my task with utmost care: collecting, preparing, adding, and mixing each ingredient as though it were the crown piece of the recipe. And yet, somehow, things kept going wrong... perhaps it was because I was using a new recipe, or because I started a little too late at night, or because the oven kept changing temperatures, or because the much-too-liquidy batter caught fire in the stove. In any case, instead of falling asleep at an early hour to the smell of two perfectly baked pies, I found myself in a smokey kitchen at 2 in the morning, scrubbing charred pie-filling off of every surface, and staring vacantly at two pie tins filled with singed and soggy masses of apple.  The true tragedy occurred when I awoke the next morning, and discovered that my pies were not quite as bad as they appeared the night before, but were, in fact, "salvageable".....

     Salvageable is a great word to hear just after a shipwreck, or a house fire. But when the object in question is about baking, or a haircut, or homemade crafts, it is a death sentence. It means that you have neither succeeded, nor failed; simply completed. Like some wild beasts, mindlessly following instinct and the semblance of order, you have completed the task. But it is a task completed without the beauty and artistry which makes what we have done beautiful, praiseworthy, inspiring. The difference between artistry and completion is what separates Mozart's symphonies from the sounds made when a frightened guinea pig waddles across a keyboard... And I had simply completed. But I brought my guinea-pig-symphony-of-a-pie to the dinner, and everyone ate it with great grace, and loaded on heaps of vanilla ice-cream to disguise the smokey flavor, and I sat small-ly in my chair, and for the hundreth time experienced the dull sting of humiliation.
           Now, I have many many other stories to tell from my adventures here. But I chose this one because it sums up much of what I have experienced here thus far. I came on my GAP year expecting to both grow and be humbled, but I suppose I expected a much more heroic humbling. Who doesn't desire brave deeds, preferably with a large audience to sit hushed in wonder at the conclusion? Instead, it is in the smallest things, in acts most often misunderstood or forgotten that I am truly growing and being humbled. And it is in the responsibilities where I am least capable --in leading music for a missionary's mass, or evangelizing on a college campus, or giving my testimony, or taking care of the logistics of a retreat-- that I feel I am truly serving. I think about if I had chosen a different path this year; what if I were serving in an english-speaking country,  or leading wilderness hikes for kids, or off at college doing something for the betterment of mankind? Yes, perhaps I would have a higher tally of 'feel good' moments, and I would probably have more friends, and I would probably accomplish more in a given day. And in those ways I would be more 'useful'. But I know I have been called here, and all I can do is be faithful to that call. And I know and have found that within this call there is more true service, beauty, and fulfillment than in any of the many other things I could be doing in this year. So daily I pour out this gift of time- precious and rare as it is- and trust that the Lord will use it for His glory.

In Christ,