catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 13 :: 2004.06.18 — 2004.07.10


Confessions of weakness

In my work with *cino, in my work with our fair trade store, in my work with our church, I often reach a point of frustration when I?m ready to pack up and leave. Should an opportunity present itself, I?d willingly take advantage of the chance to live a quiet, lonely life in some far-off, wooded corner of the world. I?d drop this overworked-underpaid daily grind in exchange for solitude.

Of course, I know that new and different problems would present themselves, that utopian visionaries have tried and failed to find the world for which I long, that if I really wanted to make the choice to flee, I would have already. I?m tempted to think that what keeps me coming back to this daydream is my failure to retreat from my daily work often or deeply enough to be fully refreshed. This is partially true, but retreat would not be enough. The heart of the problem is a failure to find joy in my work through a commitment to a singular purpose.

In Kierkegaard?s Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing

, I recognize myself in one of his chapters on ?barriers to willing one thing?:

To be sure his life is distinguishable as falling within double-mindedness. But it is not easy to designate it any more closely, because within this double-mindedness, he is not at one with himself in anything definite, but is tossed about in vacillation by every breeze. For he learns and learns and yet never comes to a knowledge of truth. Or if he comes almost to it, then he quickly turns further and further away the more he learns of this confused and confusing instruction.

This particular ?double-mindedness? caused by ?commitment [only] to a certain degree? is characterized by constantly shifting ideas and attentions, overwhelming busyness, a penchant for excuses, and self-absorption.

Fortunately, those who have gone and are going before me provide not only the conviction of weakness, but myriad examples of what is to be sought and attained. Paul Marshall, in Heaven Is Not My Home quotes an account from his good friend Calvin Seerveld of his father?s singular purpose as a believing fishseller:

My father is in full-time service for the Lord, prophet, priest and king in the fish business. And customers who come in the store sense it?.that little Great South Bay Fish Market, my father and two employees, is not only a clean, honest place where you can buy quality fish at a reasonable price with a smile, but there is a spirit in the store, a spirit of laughter, of fun, of joy inside the buying and selling that strikes an observer pleasantly; and the strenuous week-long preparations in the back rooms for Friday fish-day are not a routine drudgery interrupted by ?rest periods,? but again, a spirit seems to hallow the lowly work into a rich service, in which it is good to officiate.

I witness this spirit around me, notably in <a href=? target=?_blank?>Ralph Humes? passion for cheesecake and soul food, but also in certain family members and friends, in my town and around the world. However, this spirit does not yet reside permanently in myself. I vacillate between thinking I have not discovered the right calling yet and thinking I have not discovered the right attitude yet. Given the chaos of double-mindedness, it?s most likely a bit of both.

Until I can fully learn ?to will one thing,? I will continue to feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the array of tasks calling for my immediate attention and fail to experience the true joy of service in the pursuit of a singular purpose, that is, the purpose of dwelling in the good presence of God, now and forever. Until I will one thing, I will continue to desire escape to a less demanding life outside of community.

But I have hope that I?m moving in the right direction. Perhaps in the company of Kierkegaard and Seerveld as well as dozens of other folks whose names and stories you would not recognize, I can achieve that which the Spirit helps me pray: ?Bring me to the other side of this dark valley; show me the path that will lead me closer to Your glory.?

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