What the World Needs
Beloved, there is a profound difference between what we should do with our lives and what we are meant to do with our lives.
There is a profound difference between what we should be in the world and what we are meant to be in the world. The difference is this. The idea of what we should do and be comes from sources outside of ourselves: from the society in which we live, from the fantasies that our parents and loved ones have about our lives, from our misguided ideas about what will make us acceptable to other people, or what will bring us closer to what others consider success. This is an outwardly directed way of living one’s life. On the other hand, the idea of what we are meant to do and be comes from a Source deep within ourselves: it comes from the still, small voice that calls us to pursue our true passion and our divine mission, to give our unique gifts to the world, without regard for the conventionality or acceptability of that passion and mission.
This voice within is what Howard Thurman called, “the sound of the genuine.” In fact, it was Howard Thurman, Morehouse College Class of 1923, who said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Thurman invites us to look within, to reverse the searchlight of our awareness, away from the distractions of what the world wants from us, to find the luminous brilliance of our own uniqueness, and to shine that light in a world full of people who are fast asleep.
The Renaissance artist and sculptor, Michelangelo, when he was asked how he created his stunning works of art, gave a strange answer. According to Michelangelo, the statues already existed within the marble. God was the true creator of the David and the Thinker. His job, as the artist, was to chip away at the excess marble and to reveal what God had already created. The fact is that it is the same for each of us. Our job on this planet is to chip away at the excess marble, the excess fears and doubts, the excess negative opinions and limiting attitudes, and yes, the excess laziness and excuses, and to reveal the beautiful work of art that the Creator has already formed within us.
To borrow a metaphor from C.S. Lewis, let us imagine that the entire world is a great sculptor’s shop. Imagine that the world is Michelangelo’s studio, full of beautiful statues that appear so real that they are almost human. They have the eyes of a human being; they stand like human beings; they are the size and shape of human beings. Still, there is a crucial difference between a statue and a human being. Statues, unlike people, do not have life. They can not see, hear, taste touch or smell; they can not feel or hope or love or believe. But let us imagine that, as C.S. Lewis put it, “there is a rumor going around the shop that some of us [statues] are someday going to come to life.”
Coming to life: this is the Herculean task of the children of God who are made in God’s image. We are charged with the duty to go beyond merely reflecting the divine image within us; we must bring that image to life. We must step into the fullness of who and what we truly are. We must not be statues; we must feel and hope and love and believe; we must do more good in the world than merely seeking our own success and security. Because, beloved, there is a profound difference between looking like a human being and actually being one. There is a profound difference between looking like a success and actually being one. There is a profound difference between what we are convinced we should do and be and what we are meant to do and be. It is time for us to come alive, to bring life to the divine image that we carry.
Pastor Devon Jerome Crawford