Amanda Stephen, class of 2011, works at Bridgewood Church in Savage, Minn. The following article, written by Stephen, was featured in the December 2013 Banner Magazine. Thinking in Light of Eternity
For my entire life I have been shaped by North American culture to expect that holding a respectable job, ideally an enjoyable one with benefits, is the fulcrum of my future. I’ve been told that ideas are the currency of success, and that brilliant innovation will translate into making enough money to allow me to settle down and lean back. It’s as if, starting in kindergarten, I was set on a track toward retirement. If I work hard for 70 years I’ll be able to afford a comfortable life. And if I spend my money well, I’ll be able to enjoy annual weeks of vacation on a tropical shore along the way. Comfort, among a few other things, should be my priority—or so I’m told. But we, the restless ones who are citizens of the already-but-not-yet kingdom of God, know that tangible, permanent comfort is found in Jesus. We believe that there is no good, lasting life apart from Jesus and his ways.
Jesus asks me to think first about his kingdom, to abide with him and listen to his Spirit who guides me. He asks me to not worry. He asks me to be prepared to hold nothing back from him—not a single secret sin, and not even good things like my dreams and desires. This sounds difficult.
Repent from what makes me spiteful and arrogant? I’m willing to do that. Relinquish weighted and worrisome thoughts? That’s increasingly difficult to do, but is a reassuring condition to be in. Saying no to good things in order to say yes to something better? Hold on. Seriously, you don’t know how much I enjoy laughing into summer nights with friends on the patio at my favorite restaurant.
Essentially when Jesus invites me to follow him, he asks me to make all my decisions in light of eternity. And if I am daily asking him, “What are you doing today, and how can I join you?” the answer may well make me uncomfortable. And sometimes it won’t be, “Go hang out with your friends.”
Every day Jesus asks me to surrender my thoughts, ambitions, and plans in cooperation with how he’s moving because every moment counts. So for me, sometimes saying no to a fun time with friends is ultimately worthwhile because I know that my money, time, and energy may need to be used for that moment in another way.
Whether you are a teacher or an artist or a zoo keeper or a social worker or a barista, Jesus is asking you to set your gaze farther ahead than the weekend or the day you walk down the aisle or your retirement. Jesus willingly suffered the most excruciating death and rose again to save us from a mediocre life, and even worse, an eternity outside of his presence. He allowed himself to be nailed to a cross because he knew the end of the story—a kingdom worth the investment. He knew that ultimately he would be seated at his Father’s right hand, securing our adoption. His gaze was farther-reaching than Friday night, and while he suffered he had you and me in mind, and Sunday morning resurrection, and the kingdom.
If fully and passionately following Jesus seems too difficult or too awkward, remember that Jesus knows not only the difficulty but also the end of the story. The “meanwhile” may not be comfortable, but it’s worthwhile.
(Originally published in the Banner magazine, December 2013. Written by Amanda Stephen. For more information, click here.)