by Sue Erickson
Five months ago, I moved from Toronto to live in New York. I work for a church called Origins Church New York, a two-year-old community in Manhattan. It’s the only church I’ve ever worked for, and I love it; it is home.
I was educated as an engineer, but an intense longing for something made me leave engineering. I left, and went…nowhere. I knew I was not an engineer; I knew there was something else I could or wanted to or needed to be; and that was the end of my knowledge.
The blind, grasping feeling for something I knew was there but couldn’t see or take hold of or touch was so frustrating! So, at the advice of a friend, I started to see a spiritual director in the hope that we could search together for my vocation.Spiritual direction completely changed my life. I am so thankful for Ruth and Sandra, who taught me so much about, not vocation explicitly, but about myself, and the person of God. The question I needed (and still need) to answer, as phrased by a very encouraging essay that landed in my inbox at just the right time, was not, “What should I do?” but instead, “Who am I?”
And now, by the joyful gift of God, I live here, in the best city in the world, and work at a church, surprisingly enough. And it’s just right. It is good and acceptable and perfect.
Now, that brings me to a further point. Our church—in the heart of this busy, creative, crowded, lonely, lucky, beautiful, important, influential city, next to the beating heart of the empire of our age, the deafening heartbeat of which forces the pace around here—is starting to search seriously for how we can make room for God’s kingdom in this place. Whatever that means. And by implication, since much culture begins in New York, that kingdom could be carried out to the far corners of the empire.
The funny thing is, the search is giving me the same frustrating feeling I had about vocation.
Maybe our (or—I speak for myself—my) question is wrong. “How do we…?” For the past few weeks at Origins, we’ve been at the beginning of Romans 12:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
It’s not what we do or how we do it, but who we are. We are not conformed to the world. We carry transformed minds in our bodies of living sacrifices, and this is spiritual worship. Or rather, we could be all that. But it’s only from the point of view of a living sacrifice, who thinks with a transformed mind, that we will know, by testing and with discernment, what is good and acceptable and perfect. We’ve got to put all our effort into the prep work, and the joyful will of God will be done as the door prize.
Check out some recent Origins podcasts that discuss these ideas.
PS A special thanks to Brian and Sylvia, who came to teach us about Romans a week ago; I hope they come back soon.