Welcome to Week Five of The Rabbit Reads Book Group: Culture Making. We’re almost done! This week, we’re looking at Chapters 12 – 14, in which we’re reminded that actually, we can’t always change the world… but maybe that’s good news.
Everybody wants to change the world. It’s the promise ingrained in campaign slogans and vision statements. We hear it from pastors, entrepreneurs, and politicians. Brands sell everything from clothes to coffee with the promise of doing good in the world. And for a lot of people in my generation, we haven’t found our dream job if it isn’t somehow meaningful.
Everybody wants to change the world. Some would say it’s even our divine calling.
But can we? Really?
Here’s a quick recap of our reading so far in Culture Making. In Part 1, we defined some terms: culture is what we make of the world, and cultural goods are the things we make to shape the world. We also considered our roles as cultivators and creators and the postures we take toward the world.
In Part 2, we took a tour through the Biblical narrative, from the very beginning, where God invites his creation to share in creative power, and through the story of Israel, Jesus, and the early church, all the way to the culmination of God’s redemption project in the New Jerusalem.
Now it’s time to look at what all this means for us today. For the last two weeks of our book group, we’re going to explore our calling, and that begins with knowing our limitations.
As we’ve seen in earlier chapters, the only way to effectively change culture is to make more of it. We can cultivate what we already have and we can create new ways to solve problems and promote human flourishing, contributing to God’s ongoing restoration project. But there’s a trick here: we can’t predict or control anything we make.
It’s such a small example I almost feel embarrassed to use it, but I’m thinking about this in terms of my own work. My job is mostly creative. I write copy and social media content for a local non-profit. Part of learning to do my job better is studying what’s working, taking online courses, or asking industry peers for suggestions. I can research what works for others, learn strategies, and pay attention to what has and hasn’t worked in the past. But in the end, can I control which Facebook post will take off, or predict what will fall flat? No, not really. I can only make things, trust that I did my best, and keep trying.
Perhaps, if you’re one of the many artists hanging around The Rabbit Room, you know this feeling all too well. You can pour your soul into a song or a poem or a blog, and nothing happens. You can make a wonderful meal for your family and realize they really just want takeout. And yet you keep on making…because maybe it can’t change the world, but it can contribute something good, and, if nothing else, change you, the maker.
A statement like “Why We Can’t Change the World” might look discouraging, but I hope you read this chapter and realized that actually, it’s humbling, even freeing. Maybe you can’t change the world. Or maybe you can, but you can’t predict what needs to be done or control your creations once they’re set free.
Once you let go of the idea of doing something epic—starting the company, writing the book, even voting for the right person or supporting the right cause—you are free to joyfully participate in God’s work. Once you notice who God uses to move the horizons of the possible, powerful and powerless people alike, you can live with humility and sobriety into the new creation.
“God is at work precisely in the places where the impossible seems absolute. Our calling is to join him in what he is already doing…” (pg 216)
It’s not all on you. And that is good, good news.
Next week (our last week of the book club!), we will wrap up our reading with some practical diagnostic questions for discerning our calling in the world. But for this week, consider this: What does the idea of calling mean to you? What do you feel called to do or be? And do you have any stories about a time when you felt a distinct call on your life?
Feel free to share your insights, favorite quotes, or thoughts on calling and changing the world in comments! And if you’re interested in further conversation, visit our book group thread at The Rabbit Room Forum.
Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, freelance writer, and spiritual director. Her words have appeared at She Reads Truth, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms in 2015. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts with her husband Chris, where you can find her enjoying used bookstores and good coffee.