The shiny ship barrels through an infinite dark ocean of empty matter. This vessel races through the heavens, thousands of miles from anywhere. Its starting point is nothing more than a fading pinpoint long behind — its destination, at this time, is merely a speck looming ahead. Galloping through space, this steed bobs and weaves as if following the sidewinding path of a celestial serpent. Although the crew knows its destination, the course that gets them there is anything but direct. Waltzing through an interstellar wilderness, this roving band of adventurers blazes towards an awaiting target while spending most of their time off course.
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A few months ago, I read a book on the seven deadly sins and the author briefly addressed a vice that St. Thomas Aquinas called pusillanimity. The ecclesiastical Latin term is comprised of two parts: pusillus ‘very small’ and animus ‘mind.' Aquinas defines the terms as “smallness of spirit, ” and in his Summa Theologica, he further discusses the vice saying, “pusillanimity makes a man fall short of what is proportionate to his power, by refusing to tend to that which is commensurate thereto” (Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 133). The point that I would like to draw from this is that God has given each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3), along with gifts, talents, and abilities (1 Peter 4:10). The question each of us must ask ourselves is: are we are truly living up to what God has given us, or are we evading the weight of our calling?
In the Old Testament, we read the great detail that God delineates to Moses in regards to constructing and maintaining the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:16, 21; 40:20; Deuteronomy 10:1-5). But God’s plan for the ark went beyond acacia wood and gold overlay. We read that when God was instructing Moses, he set apart the tribe of Levi “to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord to stand before the Lord to minister to him and to bless in his name, to this day” (Deuteronomy 10:8, English Standard Version). Simply put, God called an entire tribe of people for the simple purpose of carrying his glory. This was a calling of burden.
In the New Testament, there is the often overlooked parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). To summarize, a master is going on a journey, so he calls his servants and gives each of them a portion of money to look after while he was gone. The first receives five talents, which would have been equal to about 75 years of labor. The second receives two talents, and the final receives one talent, “to each according to his ability” as Matthew 25:15 notes. We see here that a master entrusts particular servants with talents in regards to their ability.
The parable goes on to show what each servant did with his portion. The man with five talents traded and made five more talents. The man with two talents did likewise and made two more talents. But the man with one talent made a hole and buried what he had been given. The words of the slothful servant are quite interesting, “I went and hid your talent in the ground” (Matthew 25:25). Notice that the servant never takes personal ownership of what he has been given. The parable concludes with a parallel to being fruitful for the kingdom and ends on a terrifying note that those who are not fruitful will be cast into outer darkness.
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At the beginning of this article, I painted a picture of a spaceship whirling through the empty, dark expanse of space that lies between earth and the moon. That barren wilderness is not for the faint of heart and requires years of planning to traverse through its dark swathe. However, when one studies the Apollo missions, a peculiar anomaly stands out. These space ships that cost millions of dollars, piloted by men who spent years in training were of course almost 97% of the time. You read that correctly — 97% of the time the Apollo spaceships were not flying directly towards the moon. If you have ever read Jules Verne's hilarious classic, From the Each to the Moon, then you know the cost of miscalculation.
There are numerous explanations for this but the key for us to understand here while taking into account the vice of pusillanimity, the burden of our calling, and the talents we have been given, is simply that you can still be on course even when you feel off track. Much like the Levites, the burden of being called by God is weighty and requires effort to carry the Call. When we skirt away from the heaviness of the weight, we venture down the road of pusillanimity where we shrink to being less than what God has called us to be. This is the place we find the servant who was given one talent. Instead of taking ownership of what he had been given, the servant hid the talent and went about life as though this treasure had never been given to him.
Yes, there are days when the burden can be heavy and even overbearing, but remember that even the Levites has teams that carried the ark (II Samuel 15:29; I Chronicles 15:11-15) — you do not have to carry the Call alone. Frequently, especially being young in ministry, I find that the wait of the Call can become the weight of the Call. Waiting on God’s will and timing to unfold can be burdensome. This concept has produced what I have termed The Weight of My Future. It is that feeling where the destination is stuck in the indefinite loading screen, constantly moving but going nowhere. We each of aspirations and desires in life and there are those days where we feel like our dreams plague our shoulders like an Olympic lifting event. Maybe this is why Jesus said to take up your cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24).
There will be days when you feel like you are so far off course from the purpose of God. It can be tough to navigate through life when you feel you have a picture of the destination without an inclination of the journey. It’s the frustration of the loading screen. Like a treasure map without a route, the providence of God can at times be perplexing, but let me remind you that the Apollo missions made it to the moon because they were focused more on the destination than the journey. Whether you are attempting to carry the wait of today or the weight of today, allow me to remind you of our destination:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little;
I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master”
(Matthew 25:23, ESV).