The average American experiences a little fewer than 30,000 days in their entire lifetime. If you’re reading this, I’d guess you’re maybe 30% through that number, and I want to tell you a little bit about mine.
We were sitting on a wooden porch of one of my favorite coffee shops on the planet—two girls in the Midwest, a couple years apart in our college experience. A mutual friend had linked us up, saying our similar passion for social justice and our wild discontent would be a good match for each other. So, over steaming cups of the best Yirgacheffe I’ll ever have, she asked me lots of questions—really good, mind-and-soul stirring questions. I talked about how much I disliked the college we were both attending, how much I couldn’t wait to graduate and move from sitting at a desk, reading about things to putting into action what I fervently believed and what I wanted to see change.
She looked at me and said, “What if your purpose in this life isn’t to influence or bring justice to millions, but to just a few? Could it be possible for a person to waste their whole life trying to reach as many people as possible, only to find in the end that they ‘missed’ the handful of folks whose paths they were meant to cross?”
TENDING TO PASSION
I’ve always been an extremely goal-oriented person. A close friend once told me that I was her “rebel without a cause.” At the end of almost every school year growing up, I was given a character award for this thing they called “zeal.”
These days, I often joke with my husband that if he had never entered my life, as the stabilizing force that he is, I’d probably be facedown in a ditch somewhere having spun off of life’s highway going a million miles an hour.
And growing up, I absorbed somewhere along the line that to have a life that counts, I couldn’t let anything get in my way—I couldn’t settle and I had to be completely, 100% sold-out to my cause.
I took this mindset with me into college. I went, regretfully on the premise that I’d be in school for a semester and would then be allowed to go overseas—which, in my understanding, was where REAL Christians end up. Long story short, I remained enrolled in school to complete my degree, squeezing as many credit hours as possible into each semester, so I could graduate early and get out into the real world.
Because, you know, we only have one life to live, and people are dying out there, and I just need to GO…
I ended up finishing my classes a semester early and spent what would have been my last semester volunteering overseas. It was truly an incredible opportunity, but it was also surprisingly mundane…
I remember getting off at my host family’s bus stop, and as I alighted from the bus, I out-of-the-blue felt in my heart God say: “Place does not matter. What you’re doing here, you can do anywhere.”
It was equal parts incredibly freeing and incredibly confounding.
I returned to the midwest after those three months—got a job and got engaged. After getting married, my husband and I moved to a new city and did ministry work for two years, work that we honestly didn’t thrive in doing. During that time we had our daughter, Lucy. We had decent jobs, college degrees, and a trendy apartment in the city. My life was looking stereotypically young-professional.
WRESTLING WITH PASSION
The unrest I was seemingly born with never went away. This question of existential meaning followed me everywhere, consuming any and every moment of quiet in my mind. And I started to ask God if I missed an exit. If I sold out on my “calling” to give up everything and go overseas.
And you know what His answer has been?
His answer has been that He has called me to be where I am right now. To be right where I’ve always been. Because His calling is to love each other and to love Him.
And if I’m being honest, I’ve never been very good at that. What I AM good at is checking off my to-do list and thereby looking like I love people:
“Oh, I brought that person dinner. I’m good.”
“Oh, I texted so-and-so. I’m good.”
“Oh, that person FEELS loved… I’m good.”
But the thing of it is, the constant questions I’m left with are:
“Will I miss my calling?”
“Is this a distraction?”
“When will I arrive at what I’m actually MEANT to do?”
Now, these are all good questions to ask oneself and maybe even to ask often. However, people are the most important thing in this equation, and if people are starting to feel like they’re in the way of your goal—no matter how noble your goal might be—then you should take time to re-evaluate what your goals are.
Because people matter to God. In fact, they matter SO much to God, that He declares more than once in the Old Testament that he hates displays of religiosity by individuals claiming to follow Him when they perform these rites but don’t do what He has asked us to do for others. (Amos 5:21–24, Isaiah 58:6-11)
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
Perhaps you are indeed being called to leave everything and go overseas. And maybe my stereotypically young-professional self will meet you there someday. But the point, in the end, is that we are called to love God and love one another, and there is no higher calling than that.
Maybe for some it looks like changing diapers for twenty ungrateful preschool kids at the daycare for which you work. Maybe it looks like choosing to respectfully respond to an email from a co-worker in which you were unrightfully degraded for something that wasn’t your fault. Maybe for others it looks like choosing to help pay for your friend’s unexpected medical bills. Or maybe it looks like selling everything you own to live among people who speak a language other than yours in order to translate the Bible for them for the first time. And maybe still it looks like having a six-figure income and a large home so you can lavish hospitality on folks needing rest and rejuvenation.
It looks different for everyone. But all of it matters.
LIVING WITH PASSION
In the words of C. S. Lewis:
“…It is with the awe and circumspection… that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.
We must play.
But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”
And this, my friend, can be done anywhere—your living room with your toddler, the mall with a cashier, your ride-share driver, your child’s teacher, the person you dread seeing during the holidays, or that acquaintance whose political lean you cannot stand. All you have to do is ask for wisdom, and He will give it.
It is easy for me to look back on my almost 30 years of life and feel some deep regret. I’m a chronic forward-looker who has to fight to stay present and value the mundane. But each moment is a gift. Each interaction is a choice to invite God’s kingdom to come, and to declare that His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
So how will you let God use your 30,000 days?
Psalm 90:12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.
Danika is a full-time wife and mom, part-time Administrative Coordinator at Project 658, and all-time drinker of anything caffeinated. She loves being outside, seeing people holistically empowered, and doing her part to see and then show others the beauty hiding in the ordinary.