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The following is a letter I sent to my congregation a few days ago. I am on vacation on the East Coast, and the reflection was written when I arrived at my home in Virginia. I have made a few changes but not many.

As I drove the 1,154 miles to Virginia, I had a lot of time to think. Yes, I think a lot. I find that easier than just hanging out in life and watching the world go by. Now, I did watch what I was passing in the fields and the small towns that I entered to fill up with petrol. I saw fields clean and farmers with chisel plows preparing the fields for next year. I saw beautiful green fields of winter wheat throughout Ohio. I observed the changing of the seasons as I traveled south and east. It was beautiful. The West Virginia mountains are still some of the most beautiful mountains in this country. But, the heading asks the question of “who are we.”

During this time of pandemic, I have talked to several men that harken from Trinity UMC in Waverly, to Trinity UMC in Orange, Virginia and several places in between where I have been blessed to serve as pastor. The question that has eventually emerged was one of fulfillment and was phrased something like this, “Pastor Tom I just don’t feel fulfilled in what I am doing. When I could go into work I had diversions but now at home I really see what I am doing and I’m not sure if I can continue to do (put in job description) when this virus is subdued.”

It is of note that I have not had one female call with that question. I pray it isn’t because working females are so overwhelmed with what they have to do daily with family, education for children, home duties, and their jobs that they are simply ‘sucking it up’ and not asking those questions even if they are feeling a sense of hopelessness. That is a recipe for disaster in many areas of their lives.

What was being asked was ‘who am I and what would make me happy.’ That’s a question that all ages and stages of life face. The newly retired is faced with a sense of nothingness, the 20-something is faced with doing something that they really do not want to do because they feel caught in a crossfire of needs and desires that come at them from all angles. The 50-somethings are looking back and looking forward and wondering “why?”

Our civil culture is telling us that we are self-sufficient and homogenous. Yet we are also told that society (government) will take care of us. These are conflicting concepts that cause internal stress as the human soul desires to be self-sufficient and look to and for a clear path to being fulfilled.

Scripture has told us from the very beginning that we will not be dependent within by depending on anyone else for our happiness. We must find those things ourselves and they are only achieved through understanding that we are part of the plan of creation, abet fallen creation, that must depend on a higher power than government to obtain happiness.

It is through understanding the work of God from the very beginning moving through the direct interventions of His desires in the Old Testament to His sacrifice of Himself through the second person of the Trinity to His sending of the Holy Spirit that we begin to find fulfillment in who we are because we are understanding whose we are.

All that to say that the Christian is set aside to receive strength, hope, vision, and peace through their understanding of the love that the Father has for them and His desire for them to succeed.

We than circle back to the question of ‘how do I find fulfillment in this life?’ That is a question that motivational speakers, wellness writers, and politicians thrive on. They sell their ideas to those yearning for fulfillment. The fulfillment can be very rewarding using the human skills given by these and other groups but ultimately, usually when stress increases in life, there again is a terrific feeling of emptiness.

That brothers and sisters is where we as Children of The Light must step up and say, enough! We know the answer, we have the name on our lips (Jesus) that they need to hear, we truly have the answer. BUT if we do not know what the scripture says we will remain lost and looking for answers here in this realm. We will fumble around looking for the right career, partner, and happiness.

The reason that the Christian religion has all but failed in Western Europe and is on the fast track of failing in the other first world countries, including the United States, and that Islam is growing at a breakneck pace is that we have not taught the Christian religion for about three generations whereas Islam teaches their faith and has an accountability process that is expected of all Moslems.

Christians have been teaching ‘Light Religion’ that mixes the social norms and the Christian religion together and comes up with a pretty tasteless porridge that not many are willing to eat for the nourishment of their souls. For that reason the question ‘who am I and what would make me happy’ is not a question that folks think to ask of the church fathers and mothers. Tragic, because we have the answer, and that answer is honored with 2000 years of history and examples.

If that question or any other life question is on your mind or troubling your soul and happiness I would suggest that you contact a clergy person and sit down for a good honest chat about how to begin the road to true lifelong happiness. The clergyperson should have the answer. One caveat is this: if you are looking for a quick fix it probably will not happen although miracles are happening every day. Work with that clergyperson for months and maybe years and you will find that your life will change. You will move from self to selfless, immediate to ultimate, and emptiness to fulfillment.

The Rev. Tom Barnard is the pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Waverly.

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