Monday, December 15, 2008

The key?

In George MacDonald's eponymous story, a boy finds The Golden Key at (surprise!) the rainbow's end. "Mossy" soon meets a woman calling herself "Grandmother," who tells him he must find the matching keyhole. "That is your work," she tells him. "I cannot help you."

She meant, "I can't do it for you," because she feeds him and gives him some advice for his journey. She also assigns him a companion, a girl called "Tangle." (The 19th century "boy meets girl" dialogue is sweet and truly precious.)

I don't know exactly what MacDonald meant by the story, but here is what came to me as I re-read parts of it on this particular morning of my 53rd year:
  • This year I feel (like Mossy) as though I've found a keyhole (not the keyhole) corresponding to my particular mix of gifts, skills, inclinations, etc.
  • Like Grandmother, I can do no one's work for them, but I can offer help of various kinds.
  • It's good to have a companion, though if you get separated for a while, the quest remains.
I guess I should confess: yes, I have the hubris to think you might be interested in what "a keyhole" might be for my gift mix. But that's not the only reason I want to tell you; I also hope that what I found might be encouraging to someone. So here are a few things that, when I do them, as Eric Liddell famously said, "I feel his pleasure":
  • Meeting with people in small groups -- sometimes very small groups (i.e. 1-1) to listen to them and cheer them on. Young people who desire to grow spiritually are especially fun for me to be with, because it is so exciting to see the steps of faith they're taking, and also because I can tell a story or ask a question that will stimulate their thinking or encourage them in their walk.
  • Doing practical things that serve people. In the past few weeks, I've had a great time preparing and delivering food to the needy, shopping for groceries and other gifts (again for the needy), and doing construction on a Habitat for Humanity home. I probably should do more of this.
  • Obviously, I also enjoy writing (prose and code) and solving complex problems. Which I suppose is no less of a gift and need be no less part of my mission, though I consider those more just for me :) than for serving others.
Not earth-shaking, but that's what came to me. Some readers may note a lack of ambition: I don't have designs on becoming a bishop; at the office I rather doubt I'll ever become Director of anything. Sure it would be nice to invent something that would save a billion lives (as Norman Borlaug did), but let's face it -- that's not me.

But being Grandmother to other "Mossy"s -- and at turns being "Mossy" myself -- that's what brings joy to me and pleasure to my Master, and it is, for this stage anyway, what I do. And I'm grateful today to be able to enjoy this great life.

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