I had just turned 20 and I’d been debating between two tattoos for months. Should my first tattoo be the word “justice,” my greatest goal and passion, or should it be God’s sacred Hebrew name? Quite unexpectedly, my tattoo conundrum forced me to do some serious thinking about what was most important to me and why. One night as I sat praying in my dorm room I reminded God that the only reason justice was so important to me was that I served a God of justice who called me to reflect that image. My God was the God of the oppressed, a God of action, not of passive religious reflection. “In fact,” I remember thinking to myself, “you really kind of need me. Your pursuit of justice in the world isn’t going very well at the moment.”
What happened next is a moment I will never forget. God did not seem angry or annoyed with me over my youthful arrogance, but just as a mentor might gently answer an over-confident teenager, God asked, “Is it your justice that you’ve committed yourself to, or is it mine?” I was taken aback by the question. Such a possibility had never occurred to me before. Could it be that God’s plan for the world was different from mine? Was my elaborate plan for eradicating poverty in my lifetime not only statistically impossible but also a symptom of prideful distrust in what God was up to? Did I really believe God was enough for the world?
As I continued to ponder these questions, I decided to get both tattoos and experiment with the idea that God might actually be enough. Enough for me, enough for the poor, enough for the world. I asked questions about the implications of the crucifixion for community development and what the resurrection meant for my country’s exorbitant wealth. I started taking seminary classes and debated over what it meant to give God all of my life, including my desire to serve.
The journey that ensued took me to a mission, a slum, a convent, a community house, and finally—to a bishop’s office. From there I learned about “the ordination of baptism,” the idea that in our baptisms we are recruited into God’s service to represent and honour God in a particular way, depending on our gifts and abilities. This is what we call “vocation,” said the bishop, and my particular vocation would combine both my tattoos perfectly: I would finish seminary and become a priest.
The next part of this journey has begun with the deaconate, a kind of service which grounds all others because it includes a solemn vow to “be Jesus” to the least of these: the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the young. A deacon is supposed to portray for others, priests, laity, and even bishops, what being Jesus to the world looks like. As you might guess, I am in no way equipped to take on such a role. Yet I feel greater confidence to jump into this now than I did seven years ago, because I have no incredible plan for changing the world now; I only have Jesus. And that, my friends, is enough.