What do you want to be when you grow up?

Readings: Psalm 126; Habakkuk 2:1-5; Philippians 3:7-11

{If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. }Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,  if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.               [Philippians 3:4b-11, NRSV]

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Do remember how you answered that question when you were a child? Most people don’t know this about me, but for the longest time when I was asked that question, I didn’t hesitate: I want to be a race car driver. That dream lasted well into my teen years. I remember with great fondness Mario Andretti’s win at Indy in 1969; he became my favorite driver after that. I was totally smitten by the old Steve McQueen movie Le Mans when it came out a couple of years later. I had a classic racing jacket that I barely took off. My best friend and I knew that we would have to learn how to work on and build engines if we wanted to get into the motor sports game, so we started tinkering with the Briggs and Stratton on my dad’s lawnmower. It turns out that he wasn’t too happy about that. I had large Richard Petty and STP stickers all over the wall of my room, much to my mother’s chagrin, but I was in it for the long haul. Like many young boys, I guess I loved the glamour and the fast cars. Truth be told, I still love fast cars, though I have never owned one. Last year I went to see Ford vs. Ferrari (and loved it by the way) as a way of playing with my old dreams.

The older I get the more I realize that it is a real blessing that we love what we do, but in the end, it is all quite temporary and fleeting. The Apostle Paul had it made by any standard of measurement one might want to apply. He was well educated, powerful, respected, well-known and connected; yet, in the end, none of that defined who he was. Yet, whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ, he wrote. I wonder how long it took him to figure that out. I think there comes a time for all of us when we realize that our lives are short and nothing we do or touch has the innate ability to last forever.

More than that,” Paul continued, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him

As I reflect on my life during this Advent season, I realize that we all inevitably hitch our wagons to something.  What lurks beneath that choice is the deep desire that, whatever it is we decide, we want it to mean something, we want it to last. Paul made his choice. He hitched his wagon to his deep-seated trust that Jesus alone can bring meaning and an eternal perspective. We most certainly don’t cherish such a thing when we are ten years old, and neither did Paul, but I pray that I might spend some time this Advent figuring out just what I have hitched my wagon to and where it is leading me. Perhaps you would like to join me. Amen.

Offered by Dave Fredrickson, spiritual director on the road to Bethlehem.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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