–verb (used with object)
to fail to utilize fully: to underutilize natural resources.
Related forms: un⋅der⋅u⋅ti⋅li⋅za⋅tion, noun
I’ve been spiritually camped in this space related to my previous post, out of her penury, for a while now, and with this post, I’m continuing in the same vein (or rut, if you like), and I think it may take a few more posts to really get this all out.
My thesis is this: I believe we are grossly underutilized, i.e. we are spiritually productive at a level far below our capacity.
Who are we? Just for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say we’re the curious, hopeful, slightly confused, and occasionally zealous disciples of Jesus.
I know, you’re already thinking this is going to be a long, entirely boring, preachy, guilt-imposing, verbal lashing, pushing you to get more involved, give more and be better.
You’re exactly right.
But, maybe there’s more to it than that; maybe it’s less boring and more meaningful. Maybe not, but I’d like to think I can challenge your idea of what Christian service and discipleship look like. Maybe.
Utilization is a term I’ve learned in my work. We have a group of employees who are our primary source of money making. Their work product pays our bills. When they are busy with work for our customers, we bill somebody for their work, at a premium price, and we make money. When they are sitting on their hands, or rearranging their files, they are underutilized, and the business suffers.
Who are our customers? In other words, whom do we intend to serve?
I think Jesus presents two answers, simply put, to that question: 1) The Lord your God, and 2) Your neighbor.
And what is the product we provide to our customers? Again, simply put, Jesus answers: Love.
How much Love should we be producing for maximum output, or what is our capacity? More. Heart, soul, mind and strength, pressed down, shaken together, running over, mingled together, maximized by the whole body’s energy and multiplied by infinity according to the power of a very Holy Spirit living within us whose specialty is making lots of good stuff from paltry ingredients.
That’s a whole lot of love. Actually, it’s probably enough love to meet the love-needs of the entire world.
Less productivity than that, must be considered underutilization, I reckon. And that’s a condition I’m regretting more deeply than ever.
Maybe I’m just getting old and trying to rearrange my view of life to accommodate natural mortality. I refuse to bow to futility or vanity and morbidly prepare for death. I want to fight that, instinctively, and resist its supposed power over me. I must admit, though, in spite of my offense at the very idea, the calendar and the mirror keep reminding me that there may be limits to these years.
So, perhaps I’m just having a mid-life crisis, and the threat of a ticking clock is compelling me to make hay while the sun shines.
But I don’t think that’s it, or at least not all of it.
Jesus offers a pretty compelling reason for serving my customers in his Kingdom with all of the love I have to give: Life.
He says, in one example of the story: “Do this and you will live.” I think he’s talking about the fullness of life. In fact, he says in another spot that this was the reason he came: that we could have life to the fullest: abundant life.
I’ve experienced enough of the life that he offers, I think, to be pretty strongly convinced that what I want is whatever he has to offer, and especially if that is described as abundant.
Let me stop being facetious for long enough to say this plainly: My highest utilization, my capacity, is to love him with all that I am, out of my penury, and to love the people whom he places in my path, according to his calling for my life, in the same way, producing fruit for his Kingdom that can’t be measured by earthly means, and through this sacrifice – a stumbling, groping attempt to abandon myself to him – he promises abundant life, a life overflowing, a life of intimacy and communion, illuminated beyond comprehension.
Let me go further: The fruit that my life can bear, should bear, is not dependent on the traditional, man-ordained definitions of church service, nor their definitions of missions, though it may very well be enhanced by such. All that my capacity is limited by or dependent upon is Christ’s calling and purpose for my life.
The Lord alone sets my boundaries and determines my life’s capacity. That is, he’ll do so unless I stupidly and selfishly impose boundaries on myself out of a response of fear or self-preservation or self-conscious desires for comfort, or expectations determined by my weak perceptions of small possibilities.
To be productive in and for the Kingdom of God, I do not have to have more money or more time or more energy or more of anything. It’s definitely not about more activity. Some of us need more activity, but some of us need less. It’s the right activity, and the right rest that I ought to be focused on.
All that I need is all that I have: my penury – insufficiency, inadequacy, poverty and need – given wholly to the King.
I need to give all that I have in every conversation, in every moment, in every act of service, in every prayer and praise and vision and dream, and to look for him in every situation. That’s all. I just have to give my all. It’s all I have to give, and all that is required.
What a waste, what a tragedy, it would be for me to trade the promised abundance for the small-hearted alternatives. Though I may not always attain the highest utilization, the giving of my all, for God’s sake – my “customer” – I ought to be intentional about eliminating everything that might hinder me, while giving all in the pursuit of his enabling presence.