Every Christmas I love watching James Stewart and Donna Reed play Mr. & Mrs. Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. The happy ending elicits the same sentimentality that I honestly can’t help. There is always something that sticks out to me when I watch it. This year it was George Bailey not doing what he loved or what he wanted, which was to travel the world, but instead doing what he was called to do and something that he frankly loathed, taking over his father’s mortgage lending business. This isn’t unlike what happens to many of us. Life doesn’t always go as we plan or give us what we want. And while I do believe that 90% of life is about how you respond or react to the stuff hurled our way, this nod to “attitude” alone falls short.
Living with purpose bridges the gap. We may never know the bigger plan at play but we each have gifts that make us uniquely perfect to fulfill that plan. Clarence, George Bailey’s angel, gives George a real gift- an ability to see what life would be like had George never been born. George quickly learns that his life impacted the lives of so many others. He didn’t get to travel or build iconic structures around the world but he made a huge difference in the lives of the people he interacted with on a daily basis.
I can’t help but think of Joseph when he realizes his betrothed, Mary, is pregnant and not by him. Joseph didn’t want that for himself nor did he plan for it. But when he was called to keep his engagement to Mary, his response was utter obedience.
How would our lives look if obedience was our response to being called?
My life would have been completely different. Stubbornness is a quality I inherited from both sides in spades. When I set my mind on doing something, I was doing it because it was what I wanted, it was my life, and I was in control. My first big lesson in control, or rather the myth of control, came with the premature rupture of membranes with my daughter at 34 weeks of gestation. I was on my knees in the hospital chapel praying through sobs for my baby girl to be healthy. I prayed because I knew I didn’t have control in that instance. I vowed to God I would do anything for her health, whatever was asked of me. When we brought Isabel home, that vow quickly faded to the demands of motherhood and the shackles of post-partum depression. I have always longed to know my purpose in this life. It took me 15 more years to realize that something bigger was at play for me. And it wasn’t until I really starting seeking God, wanting to know God, and reading scripture that I really began to understand that I didn’t have control; thus the importance of surrender. When I say surrender, I don’t mean to give up on life. I mean having the faith to submit myself to God. I mean doing as Joseph did and being obedient when called upon. I am late in keeping my vow to God, but better late than never.
What keeps you from obeying when called upon?