"You are not indispensable to the kingdom of God"
That's the thought that struck me somewhere around the age of 23.
I recognize that it is probably a grandiose thing to think at that age, though perhaps not. Bonhoeffer earned his second dissertation at 23. Keith Green released his first "Christian" album at 23. Bonnie Parker, the American bank robber, died at 23 (in 1934), killed in a police ambush. River Phoenix (1993), Selena (1995), and Charles IX of France (1574) also died at 23. And who really knows what Jesus was doing at 23. So perhaps 23 is not that young after all to feel such things.
I knew I mattered to God's kingdom. I knew I had a place in it. I knew my friends cherished me and I knew I had an important role to play in the world, whatever it might turn out to be. I knew even then that I was a late-bloomer (and have now realized that I'm a career late-bloomer), and that I had a lot of life left to live.
Yet one Sunday morning, while driving in to church, I felt a sudden conviction that I was not indispensable to the kingdom of God. I hadn't planned on thinking that thought, of course, and the idea that I was dispensable was not immediately welcome, though I suspected it was nearer to the truth than otherwise. I also felt remorse for thinking that I might have been indispensable. Or perhaps I felt embarrassed. No, I definitely felt embarrassed, then I felt remorse, then more embarrassment.
Eventually, though, I felt it as a certainty that made me feel a lot better about myself. It also freed me from a lot of silliness.
This is a good thing to remember, I figure, as I approach my forty-first birthday.
That's my Jesus pose up there.
"Of course it wasn't funny; it was tragic. That's why I had to laugh. I looked at a cageful of monkeys and suddenly I saw all the mean and cruel and utterly unexplainable things I've seen and heard and read about in the time I've been with my own people--and suddenly it hurt so much I found myself laughing."
-- Valentine Michael Smith, a one-time Martian, speaking to Gillian Boardman in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land