As a twenty-something in grad school, I have always looked forward to when, as they say, I “get a real job and make real money.” I believe God cares about the things we do. Our desires to work hard are evidence of us being made in His image. I realize I spend a lot of time spent mulling over questions like “When will I ever not be a college student?”, “What will it be like to come home without class assignments, readings, and papers to finish (or better yet, start)?” Or, “It is probably about time I finally grow up and do something different, right?”
These questions are focused on me, and when answered, serve what is in my best interests. Jesus calls us to follow Him for His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.” Really? How does regularly serving people who don’t serve us back, relentlessly forgiving others who wrong us, and picking up my cross daily amount to an easy yoke and light burden? I thought that if Jesus is to be taken at his word, my headspace could use some new questions. Here are 5 questions I’ve started to ask. While the questions are still focused on self, these questions are meant to steer my heart and mind towards God and others rather than my own interests.
1. Who will I serve?
Have you heard of the helper’s high? While there is a direct benefit to somebody on the receiving end of service, research describes the “helper’s high” in ways where the person performing the service also receives a benefit. We can all agree, it is worthwhile to help others.
2. How will others glimpse Jesus through me?
When we look at other people, we hardly only see just the breathing person in front of us. We see the clothes they’re wearing, think about the job they have, and assess their interests. Underlying all of what we see on the surface are the people who have influenced and helped shape the person standing before us. In Luke 6:40, Jesus says, “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” Students act, think, dress, and speak like their teachers.
If Jesus is our teacher, it makes sense others should pick up on that.
3. Who will I forgive?
Jesus told us we have to forgive again and again. In this day, it is easy to get distracted and forget things we did a couple of hours ago. Thankfully, we have calendars and location history that remind us. Choosing to forgive in the morning is great, but we are going to forget. Choosing to forgive may not come naturally. Say it out loud. Say the person’s name, what was done to you, and end with “I forgive you.” Our clothes have pockets and we carry purses and bags because we like to have our hands free and don’t like to hold on to things for too long. Withholding forgiveness can overwhelm our thoughts throughout the day and take up too much space in our emotions and how we relate with others if we are not willing to let it go.
4. Who will I encourage?
Encouraging somebody is different than complimenting someone. If I compliment someone, I could say: “Your shirt looks nice.” He or she will probably say, “Okay, thanks.” If I encourage someone, I’d say: “God has used your faithful friendship in my life. It was really thoughtful of you to follow-up with me the morning of my class presentation. I appreciated watching the funny video clip you shared with me. ” He or she will probably say: “Okay, thanks.” But it will mean something different. Our actions always come coupled with consequences. Some are immediate while others are delayed. An immediate consequence of a compliment might mean you wear the shirt again. However, consequences of encouragement may build into the giver and receiver more slowly, producing greater impacts internally and permanently. In this example, I benefited internally by taking time to reflect and consider the actions of my friend rather than my own. This friend will benefit by looking for more ways to practice similar meaningful behaviors towards others in his communities.
5. Who will I lead?
Naturally, as we serve others, make Jesus known, forgive, and encourage, we’re going to look around and notice that we have some people following us. As you grow, you will see the ways that Jesus promotes you. You may find you are leading from the front by serving others. You might be leading on the side giving others glimpses of Jesus. You could even be leading from behind encouraging those in front of you. Regardless of how you find yourself leading, thinking about and preparing yourself for that opportunity will prove worthwhile for when God is ready to promote you to lead His people.
These questions are meant to steer and orient our hearts to the ways God is at work in our lives and through the people He has placed around us. There are other great questions we should start asking ourselves and I’d love to hear from you about questions you’ve used to orient your heart in a Godward direction.
We all have future destinations we hope to inhabit someday. We have heard that practice makes perfect. Actually, practice makes permanent. Continue working towards where you aspire to be. Consider one of these questions: think about how the things you practice now can become permanent when you’re finally in that city, job, or life stage you dream to be.