I've been mulling over a lot of different things lately, but haven't had the energy/time to actually put them down into words...until now. Please excuse the occasional, semi-unorganized word vomit.
There are so many fields of study, so many approaches to life, so many different forms of spirituality (or lack thereof), so many theories on what's important and what makes life worth living. But really...what does it all mean? Why isn't there one explanation or approach for everything--how to be happy, how to live life, what should be true priorities, etc. Theology tells us that understanding God and his word will give us meaning and purpose. Psychology says that understanding one's thoughts and emotions will bring us self-awareness and empowerment. Science says that we are biological creatures wired to respond in certain ways to our environment--life is about survival. So, which is right? Which is the "way" to live life? Are some right while others are wrong, and who decides? I don't think any of them are wrong, but how can we incorporate them into a realistic lifestyle and a means of being personally fulfilled and relationally/service oriented in the world?
Understanding and developing oneself as a person individually (and relationally with God and with others) is one of the most essential and most difficult tasks required of us as humans. If we don't...we waste life, wandering obliviously through relationships and experiences. If we do, we face intimidating self-examination and unguaranteed steps that hold the potential to be equally terrifying and exhilarating.
Personally, I approach this issue from a theological and psychological frame work. Psychologically, knowing my own fears, relational habits, strengths, weaknesses, and the effect of my upbringing and past are major players in knowing who I am. However, theology says that knowing who I am only gets me so far. Knowing "whose I am" (props to Ashley for this terminology) both supplements my strengths and overrides all of my fears, past, and weaknesses.
Ok, so...I know who I am (sort of, ha) and I know whose I am...but how does that play out in living in this world that has injustice, unfair expectations, pain, and disappointment? I believe that a sense of empowerment--a feeling that you are valuable and that you are allowed to pursue what you feel called to--is SO essential. But how do you do, or even figure that out, in the face of...well, life? Forget tragedy, just expectations from others can be enough to kill any sense of empowerment--make good grades, graduate college, succeed, be popular, get married, have kids, have a successful/happy family life, make money......and what happens if you fail at one of these? Forget even fail, what if you take longer to attain something on this list than the average person? Maybe you don't even want some of this, or you were born with something that inhibits your ability to achieve. Maybe everyone around you tells you you can't, or you're stuck in a hopeless situation that makes you feel powerless...
....then what happens?
Knowing "whose I am" and that I belong to and am liked/noticed/loved/cared-for by God gives me an identity outside of socioeconomic status, education, achievement, friends and even my parent's marital status. But how can we...how can I...relay this to others--this empowerment through relationship with God...finding strength outside of oneself and the freedom to use that strength to pursue what I am called to and passionate about (whether housewife, business professional, social activist, or farmer). I feel this is so important and often get frustrated that I can't just hit people with the empowerment stick and be done with it. How does one help people achieve this...or even just get on the road towards empowerment-though-God?
We are always told to find something we love and pursue it...but sometimes finding something we hate and working to change it can be an even more powerful motivator. I hate seeing people be marginalized and told they don't matter. I hate seeing people be stuck in a role they hate but feel obligated to fill. I hate that so many of our life decisions are governed by fear. I hate seeing people give up before they even start. I hate when people are told they don't (or can't) think for themselves.
I guess this all comes down to the fact that we are in a broken world. Perfection will never be achieved, pain and injustice will exist, people (including myself) will make decisions out of fear...but that does not mean we can't fight against it. It does not mean that I can't do anything...if I can help even one person feel slightly more connected to and empowered by God, feel more like they do matter, feel less stuck filling a hated role...then I will consider all my efforts worthwhile.
Dr. Wes Stafford said "We are not given strength to be strong for ourselves, we are given strength so we can stand for those who are too weak to stand for themselves. And we are not given courage for ourselves, but to be courageous for those who are scared." God, help me use your strength and courage for those who can't, and help me accept it from others when I am too scared and weak to ask for it myself.