(The following entry reflects on Gary Haugen’s message “The Dignity of Responsibility,” part three of Celebration of Hope 2017. If you missed it or would like a refresher of it, both the video and the transcript are available for you.)
A few months ago, I attended an IF: Gathering. Jill Briscoe was one of the speakers, and she told pieces of her life’s mission story. The idea that stuck with me was something she learned early in her life as a Christian—“Until you are told to go somewhere, your missions field is between your own two feet.” I’ve been working that charge out in my own life for the last several weeks. The path between my own two feet seems to change and shift and move every single day. Sometimes, it feels small, like there is no room to take a step let alone impact anyone in a meaningful way. Other times, the path between my own two feet feels daunting—it is rocky and climbing. I wonder how I’ll ever reach the top of the path where, in my mind, true change, true impact, can happen. Often, I find myself thinking about the path ahead instead of the ground below.
Gary Haugen’s message on Sunday about the “dignity of responsibility” has helped me realize that the path between my own two feet is not for me to measure or judge. It is not for me to decide where I will have the greatest impact. Instead, the path between my own two feet is simply the bit of life that I have been given to live. It is the bit of love that I have been given to share with the people—no matter who they are—whose paths cross mine every single day.
Last weekend, while I was cutting the grass, I noticed my nine-year-old son approaching me. When I stopped, he asked if he could mow the remaining portion of lawn. I knew I had only about ten minutes of work left—if I let him take over, the duration would double or even triple. I had many other chores that I wanted to get done, and letting my son cut the grass would only force me to forego some other task. The dignity of responsibility. It was staring right at me. My other tasks would have to, and should have to, wait. When faced with the choice between pursuing my own personal agenda and dignifying someone on my life’s mission field, I have to start choosing the latter. It’s not an easy choice. Do I let my kids make their own lunch and then supervise as they clean up the disaster that will come from spreading jelly, cutting off bread crusts and stuffing sandwich bags? I have to dignify them and choose yes. It would be easier and faster (and cleaner) if I packed their lunches for them. But it would do nothing to dignify them. Do I set deadlines for my students and hold them accountable for those deadlines? I have to dignify them and choose yes.
Gary Haugen’s statistics and examples about modern-day slavery and human trafficking were deeply alarming. As I listened to him and looked at the pictures and statistics, I felt overwhelmed and underqualified to help. But then I remembered Jill Briscoe’s words: “Until you are told to go somewhere, your missions field is between your own two feet.” Today, at this moment in my life, I am not called to fly halfway across the world and rescue women from slavery. Today, at this moment, I am not called to quit my job and open a safe house for those who are most vulnerable. I am, however, called to walk my path and spread the bit of life and bit of love that I have been given to share with the people who cross my path.