Monday, January 21, 2008

"Don't go where I can't follow..."

Last week a good friend of mine played me a clip from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It was his way of making light (kind of) of a challenging situation we were in. It made me laugh. It also made me want to watch the movie, so on Saturday night - after a very long and somewhat difficult day - that's exactly what I did.

I haven't watched any of the LOTR movies in over a year, so it was fun to get re-acquainted with the characters and the story line.

Several times throughout the movie I found myself thinking "I want to be a 'Sam'." Samwise Gamgee... a hobbit from the Shire who devotes himself fully to the service of his friend Frodo, who must travel to Mount Doom and destroy the much-sought-after and terribly dangerous "ring". Samwise.... an uncommon name for an uncommon character. He's not considered the hero of the story, but to me he is the greatest kind of hero. Could there be anything more heroic than setting aside your own life's ambitions to help someone else pursue theirs? What a beautiful picture of service, loyalty, and true friendship.

I long to be the kind of person who can so fully lose her life in the service of others that she gives no thought to herself. Someone who can truly partner with others as they pursue God's call on their life... I long to serve people in this way; my friends, my family and - Lord willing - someday, my husband.

We live in a world that tells us we must pursue our own dreams or we'll never get them. But what if that's not true? What if the best way to achieve our dreams is by first helping someone else achieve theirs? It sounds backwards, and a little nuts.. but also quite possibly true. Jesus said that in order to gain our lives we must lose them, but how often do we contemplate what it means to truly lose our life? I fear that we (I) think too small... I let someone pull out in front of me when I'm driving and in a hurry... I just "lost my life", gave up my desire, for the sake of another. I reached out to try and help someone else even though my life is stressful, or dark, or frighteningly uncertain... look at me.. I just "lost my life".

Or did I?

Was Jesus implying something greater? Something that tests the very core of our identity? Do I depend too much on my hopes and dreams as things that define me? Do they define me? Do I *want* them to define me? Or would I rather be defined, not by what I achieved, but by how I lived? And if I truly want to be defined by how I live, then what do I want my "definition" to say? "She devoted herself to achieving her greatest dreams" ? or, instead.. "She devoted herself to the service of others, helping *them* achieve their God-given dreams." ??

I want to want to be someone who gives her life in service to others. I think that's my greatest hope and prayer as I get ready to head out into the desert. Maybe, during those 5 days of solitude, God can begin to transform my heart into one that rejoices in the dreams and accomplishments of others, rather than coveting my own.


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