A blog post by Tom Schwolert
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live a life of significance. Ten months ago my perfectly healthy 17 year old son died due to complications from the flu. A few weeks ago, I resigned from my youth and family position, and I am in a time of transition. I also turned 50 over the summer. Oh, and my youngest daughter just turned 16.
Do Your Own Thing by Ibrahim Lujaz on Flickr
Yes, this past year has been like no other. I have struggled to find meaning in the darkest of times. I’ve found myself asking the big life questions almost daily. It has been the most difficult time I’ve ever experienced in my life; yet strangely, it has provided me with a depth of understanding and clarity that I did not know even existed. Let me explain.
Last Saturday a small group of close friends and family gathered in my living room to consider the possibilities of developing a non-profit ministry and/or foundation in honor of my son Max. We had incredible conversation filled with both tears and laughter. We found ourselves telling stories about Max and how he lived his life. As we went around the circle sharing stories, we realized that there was a common thread to all these stories: acceptance.
We realized that Max’s passion was to let everyone around him know that they were accepted, that they belonged, and that they were safe with him. The cool thing about it is that I really don’t think Max knew he was consciously doing it. It came naturally to him. His “sweet spot” was letting others know they were accepted and loved. After that incredibly inspiring morning in my living room, my thoughts have been wandering and wondering about what this means for me and what it means for the church.
You and I each have a “thing.” Yes, we each have that “thing” (highly theological word I learned in seminary) about us that I see as something God-given. You can call it a spiritual gift, a skill, whatever…but God has given you and me something that is unique. It comes naturally, we don’t really have to work at it. It’s something you can’t not do. And what Max has taught me as I move into a new chapter of my life is that God wants me to live my “thing.” God has made me unique for unique purposes, and when I live into and out of those gifts God has given me I become a steward of Christ’s love and mercy in this world. I find my purpose for this life and God has a way of blessing me and others through that. It’s being a steward of what God has given me.
So if you are in a place in life where you aren’t able to do your “thing,” you probably are restless, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. What would a church look like where everyone was doing their “thing?” It’s what Kenda Creasy Dean calls “Practicing Passion.” What would ministry with those in the first third of life look like if our mission were to help young people discover their “thing” and then help them do their “thing?” This just might look a lot different than trying to figure out ways to get people to show up at our church stuff. So get out there and do your “thing” and help others do their “thing,” and God promises that God will do God’s thing through us.
After 26 years in congregational youth and family ministry, Tom is taking a break and focusing on discovering what God has in store for this next chapter in ministry.