Activated - - ACTIVATED - By Wil­liam B. McGrath

The great Bri­tish writer Gil­bert Keith Ch­ester­ton

wrote a se­ries of short sto­ries about a parish priest, Father Brown, with a knack for foren­sics. This lowly priest in­ves­ti­gated crim­i­nal cases while main­tain­ing com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing to­ward the guilty.

In one episode, Father Brown gives some ad­vice to a guilty in­di­vid­ual who has climbed up into the church spire. He tells him: “You know, it can be dan­ger­ous when

1. Para­phrased from The In­no­cence of Father Brown, orig­i­nally pub­lished

1911. 2. See 2 Corinthi­ans 10:12. 3. See 2 Kings 5:1–15. 4. See John 6:4–14. 5. See Mark 12:29–31. in­di­vid­u­als place them­selves in high places. Even to pray from a high place can be dan­ger­ous. Good peo­ple who al­low them­selves to gain a lofty opin­ion of them­selves will be­gin to look down upon oth­ers and be­come judg­men­tal to­wards oth­ers. Soon, they will feel com­fort­able with putting other peo­ple down ver­bally, and then they may even grow com­fort­able with crim­i­nal acts of vi­o­lence. But hu­mil­ity is the mother of gi­ants, and one can see great things down in the val­ley, in one’s right­ful place.”

1 After this, Father Brown tells the man that what he knows about him can re­main con­fi­den­tial, but he asks him to take the path of hon­est re­pen­tance, to turn him­self in.

In the se­ries, Father Brown is de­picted mak­ing the most of one’s

hum­ble sta­tion in life and be­ing con­tent and use­ful there. He doesn’t own a car, but he of­ten wears a smile while rid­ing his bi­cy­cle. If oth­ers in­sult him, he’s hardly moved and will of­ten re­ply with a sim­ple com­pli­ment for the other per­son or point out some­thing that they can to­gether be grate­ful for. He just keeps mov­ing for­ward with what he be­lieves he should do each day.

His keen eye for solv­ing crim­i­nal cases is sharp­ened by a fa­vorite pas­time: read­ing mur­der mys­ter­ies. Oth­ers try to per­suade him to stay strictly in the tra­di­tional ac­tiv­i­ties of a parish priest. He at­tends to those well but knows deep down that he was also meant to med­dle in the se­ri­ous af­fairs of solv­ing crime. His in­ter­est be­comes part of his vo­ca­tion, his niche, en­abling him to right some of the wrongs that he sees around him. Father Brown also prays for un­just sit­u­a­tions to be found out. The lo­cal chief in­spec­tor re­sents the priest’s in­trud­ing into his in­ves­ti­ga­tions, but while Father Brown bows out of tak­ing any credit for solv­ing the mys­ter­ies, he re­peat­edly proves him­self in­dis­pens­able.

God made each of us with a spe­cific place and pur­pose in mind. Per­haps we could find deeper ful­fill­ment in our sta­tion in life if we could learn to make the most of our po­si­tion by equip­ping our­selves to do our best, wher­ever we find our­selves in life’s jour­ney.

There’s noth­ing wrong with as­pir­ing to be good at what we do and re­ceiv­ing recog­ni­tion for it, but we can be­come dis­heart­ened and dis­con­tent if we be­lit­tle our own place in life and long for a seem­ingly more pre­em­i­nent po­si­tion. Cer­tainly there are many in­di­vid­u­als who ex­cel in po­si­tions of great use­ful­ness or promi­nence. But many of us fill a place in life that would be con­sid­ered more com­mon and or­di­nary. Nev­er­the­less, we are each given valu­able hid­den skills that can be de­vel­oped in our cur­rent cir­cum­stances. And when we ac­cept our sit­u­a­tion and do all we can in it, we will of­ten find our­selves de­vel­op­ing those hid­den or for­merly dor­mant tal­ents, which we can then use to help oth­ers. This in turn brings us con­tent­ment and ful­fill­ment.

Some peo­ple know ex­actly what they want to do and who they want to be from a very young age. But many more sim­ply have to find their way, pick an oc­cu­pa­tion, and of­ten start small and learn as they go. Peer pres­sure, this world’s cul­ture, and the hu­man mind can of­ten work to­gether to cause us to be­lit­tle our place and po­si­tion when it is a seem­ingly more or­di­nary and com­mon one. But no place or po­si­tion is re­ally com­mon or or­di­nary if it is the place and po­si­tion God meant us to have, and where He meant for us to de­velop our unique skills.

2 The Bi­ble has plenty of peo­ple brought out of the ranks of ob­scu­rity and the com­mon­place, who ended up be­ing key play­ers—for ex­am­ple, Naa­man’s maid was the one who men­tioned where her mas­ter might find heal­ing for his lep­rosy3 and the lad who gave Je­sus his lunch, which was then mul­ti­plied to feed 5,000 peo­ple.

4 Our place in life may not be one with lu­cra­tive in­come nor a po­si­tion in the lime­light, but it be­comes a very spe­cial place and one of deep ful­fill­ment when we put the prin­ci­pal val­ues in first place—lov­ing God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and lov­ing our neigh­bor as our­selves. Wher­ever He has

5 us placed in this world, and for what­ever length of time, we ac­cept it and learn to make it bet­ter. That is what Father Brown did.

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