The Importance of Trajectory
In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul exhorts us not to be conformed to “the pattern of this world”(NASB). This is a commonly known and recited verse, but the subtlety of that pattern has seen many thousands of Christians walk according to it while assuming that their lives were comprehensively Christ-centered. Many of us have committed ourselves to being kind where others would be cruel, to be upright in our business dealings where others would cheat, or to mention the glory of God on the sports field where others would only mention themselves.
These behaviors are clearly positive within their societal context, but the danger comes when we are reluctant to question the context itself, or, to put it more plainly, to question the core values of the culture. Why do we do business? Why do we play sports? What is the ultimate aim of our existence? What does the world say it is? If these things are taken for granted, we may find ourselves tweaking our behavior but not changing the trajectory of our lives. To borrow an analogy from C.S. Lewis, we may rearrange the furniture in our house when what is called for is to knock the house down and build a new one.
In our specific cultural context, the main aims seem to be personal status(through career, fame, etc.) and, to a less profound extent, financial security. With our students, we are not simply exhorting them to do their studies excellently. We are asking them why they are studying in the first place. We are not calling them to be students who happen to share their faith when it fits within the “normal” trajectory of their lives, as they press on to societally respectable careers and secure financial futures. We are calling them to believe in eternity. To believe that they live on this earth for 70 or 80 years, if that, before they spend that eternity in bliss with their true Bridegroom. We are telling them, with the apostle Paul in Colossians 3, that they have died, and their lives are hidden with Christ in God, so that they can safely and gladly give their remaining 50 or 60 years away for the kingdom. And we are telling them that the academic, career, and financial aims of those who have died with Christ should also be unswervingly aimed at the advancing of His kingdom.
I continue to see the Lord work to shift the trajectory in many a student’s heart. Lately, this work is manifesting itself at the U of M as student leaders are learning to surrender their personal preferences and replace them with relationships. They are beginning to aim their lives at people. Their weekends are oriented around their classmates and hallmates, rather than the activities they prefer. After all, people last forever.
The changing of a life trajectory is difficult, if not impossible. It is certainly a long process, and a supernatural one. But the Lord is faithful, and He continues to do what He has promised. And each time, I get the joy of seeing Him do it in the life of a student I care about.