Rising Leader Series: Week 43 - Call
Updated: Feb 25
FROM NIGHT TO LIGHT
I found more comfort in control than trust
Protecting my self-interest like a hawk
I counted the world unsafe and unjust
So drew my assets high atop a rock
Then sat upon my assets like a stone
Peering upon activities below
Until it struck me: I was all alone
Safe, secure, uninvolved, unloved, unknown
I looked up to the sky and saw the stars
And then looked down to valley’s sprinkled lights
And then to darkness in my heart cast far
From life and love and friends on this dark night
“Dear God,” I said, “I surrender. Here I am”
“Take me, remake me– then use me in Your plan!”
Let’s work backwards. What happens when we die?
As a Catholic priest, Father Brendan McGuire has often been called by families of the dying to offer last rites. Over the years, it has been his privilege to be at the bedside of “well over one hundred people” as they passed from life to death. He shares that it has taught him the reality of Heaven through experience, more convicting than doctrine or belief alone could ever be. He describes it as follows.
A person on the verge of death often experiences a period of lucidity– an awakening. They will look with love upon the family gathered round. They will take in the priest, finding comfort as the last rites are performed. Then, in Father Brendan’s words, “after a long period of gazing upon their loved ones, their gaze will rise above us; they’ll look past our shoulders. Their faces will begin to shine with joy. I’ve heard many call out a greeting to long-gone family members– ‘Mama!’, or ‘Johnnie boy, Johnnie boy!’, that kind of thing. As if these lost loved ones are reaching down from Heaven to take them home.”
Rising leader, the door to Heaven is wide open to all of us. It’s our final free will choice: to be welcomed into the arms of God at our deaths. Steve Jobs was known for many things, but not so much for his faith in God. However, his autobiographer chronicles that he did struggle with the reality and essence of God in the months leading up to his death. Jobs’ sister gave the eulogy at his funeral. Towards the end of the eulogy, she shared that at his death, a number of family members were present. Here’s what she said they heard:
“Before embarking, he looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve’s final words were OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
What if we were to know with absolute certainty, in the prime of our lives, that the Bible verse (1 Corinthians 2:9) was true: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” If we were to glimpse the true depths of God’s love right now– not just at our deaths– how would we lead our lives differently?
I submit we would love God back, with all we’ve got.
And if God is in all people and all things, and if we who are Christian believe Jesus Christ is God, then Christ is in every person we meet. The poor, the hungry, the homeless– in all, we see the face of Christ. Christ is also in our children’s children’s children– those who will suffer the most severe effects of planetary degradation. Christ is in those privileged to live in a democracy, and in those on the verge of losing it. Those we agree with, and those we don’t. Those living in peace, and those suffering and dying in the midst of war.
When we begin to see God in the face of the ones who stand before us, can we respond with anything other than love? Will we not experience deeply the call to devote our lives to advancing goodness in the world? Mother Teresa said it this way:
“At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not for bread– but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing– but naked of human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks– but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise.”
Billions around the world, certainly including those who do not profess a Christian faith, pursue lives of goodness. And God loves us all. He understands all that led us to our beliefs. He celebrates our acts of goodness no matter what beliefs we might subscribe to.
For those of us who do profess a Christian faith, God asks us to prepare– to do the soul work. Jesus greets us first with love, then truth, then grace, and then, finally– call. We are called to become Christ’s hands and feet in the world. To go where He would go, to do what He would do. His call to us flows up from our piety. Our piety connects us to God, and so draws us beyond ourselves and into the world. These are the steps up the ladder I call the “disciplines of goodness”, which I’ve shared in past letters:
Loved one– child of the living God– rising leader. Which purpose calls out to you? Are you ready to rise up, take up the work, take a step up the ladder? With every step, your life becomes a greater blessing to the world.
Next week, let’s turn to commitment. It’s the way things get done.
“As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”-- Mark 1: 16-18
Yours in calling,
Previous Weeks' Letters: