deep theological hang-up of the month

It's been a quiet week here at the Shift, which by now most of you will know means there's a whole lot of rumbling underground as a new shift is about to take place. :) This one may include a bit of lava surfacing, when it's all said and done, but I'm still not in a place to blog about it yet...

But I'm wondering something tonight - something I've often wondered. This whole "it's all about You, it's not about me" thing. It's true, I know it. He's the Main Character in this Story we get to live into... I'm just another player... but how do I experience the Story focused on Him and not get caught up in the middle of my own story? The only way I get to experience this life is in this body, with this mind, and these eyes... so how do I learn to not see with my eyes, but His? and to not live for myself but for Him?

Jake and I were talking tonight, and if I'm remembering the conversation correctly he said something about this whole "burn-out" phenomenon that tends to happen to people in ministry, (and which seems to be happening to a number of us at Torch right now...) and how it tends to happen when our focus shifts from Christ to ourselves. And I said something to the effect of "you know, I don't think I'd even realized that had happened" and Jake said, "I think sometimes it's possible for us to be focused on both." And that rang true. I have been looking at Christ, I think... seeking to live right, to honor Him in what I say and do - but I've been pretty self-centered of late as well... but then it comes back to this question of how do you live your life for God without it ever being about you at all?

I'm not sure I'm phrasing this question well. Do you see what I'm driving at? And what do you think about it? How do we get out of ourselves and live lives that make the glory of Jesus our single concern?


Sara said...

Ready for a little literary theory? Let's see if I can make this coherent. God's not just the author, but the main character. And we're not just the characters, we're the readers. Oh, and we're seriously mistaken if we think that we're reading just one book here, or that we're all reading the same book. Those are the starting caveats. (Well, maybe it's one book, from God's perspective, but it can't be from ours. It's too much.)

Yes, when we hand out book awards, we honor the authors. But the authors will tell you that they want you to pay attention to the characters too. They wouldn't have written them if they didn't want you to enjoy them. It's not honoring to God if we don't take the time and attention to appreciate each other. we're not the main characters in one sense. But we rob ourselves if we don't acknowledge that it is our story too.

God wants us to live our lives to his glory, but we're not robots. They are our lives to live, and one of the glorious things about his creation is that it is a living, dynamic thing and that we get the honor or interacting with it.

And it gets particularly tricky when you start talking about these issues in the context of ministry. Because it's true in some ways that there are different answers to the same questions depending on context. In some areas (sports, business, writing, etc.) sheer hard work and God-given talent will get you a long way and *I* can accomplish a lot just by using those. And in those areas, God calls us to use our gifts in such a way as gives him glory, of daily sacrificing our pride and remembering that our lives are all about us.

In ministry, however hard we work, *we're* not going to accomplish anything. I reference here Andrew Purves' excellent book "The Crucifixion of Ministry" in which he makes the point that our work is not redemptive. Only Jesus's work is redemptive. In ministry what we hope to do is facilitate God's work. We can plow, weed, water, pray. We speak truth truth and do our best to be in each other's lives in such a way that we encourage each other in accepting in our lives the work that God wants to do in us. But at the end of the day, it is not *our* work that changes the lives of those that we minister to or even our own lives. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

So what does that mean that our place in the story is? Well a tense one. That is, there are a number of things that have to be in tension with each other in order for us to stay centered and well balanced. Yes, it's God. No, that doesn't mean that we're allowed to kick back and not do anything. Yes, we're secondary. No, we're not unimportant. Yes, we're characters. We're also readers. We say that the best authors are transparent. That we read their work and simply fall into their world and forget about author. And the author doesn't want us to kick back with their new book adn study the prose, but to enjoy the stories. Yet the best of those are the very books that I go back to reread just to appreciated the clean way that the sentences and paragraphs are put together. To appreciate the turn of phrase, the apt description, the one liner.

This response hasn't turned out to be the well-crafted nugget I envisioned . . . maybe another week and another draft or three. But what do the rest of you think?

Rob said...

Yeah, I thought of Purves as well--his book really applies to your question, Hap. It's a must-read book for anyone who's in Christian ministry, but his central point is for everyone. Beyond that, I don't want to repeat myself (go here for my post on his book, and here for a companion post of sorts), but you might find it well worth your time to read.

In any case, I see what you're driving at--I live there much of the time--and it's a hard thing. It's not just hard to get over ourselves to do it, it's hard to get hold of, to really understand, how exactly we're supposed to do that, or be that. That's why Dr. Purves' book takes so much digesting, I think, because he's in very deep waters.

Anyway, just a few stray thoughts too late at night . . . for whatever they're worth . . .

Happy said...

Sara - thanks for the train of thought. :) and i love the perspective on how to God it's all one story, but to us it's way too much. i still walk down streets and think, wow, in every house there is a story - sometime 4-5-12 stories - and God knows the intimate details of all of them - and it blows my mind. We serve an amazing God, and I am so privileged to be one of His kids.

paragraph 4 - did you mean our lives *aren't* all about us? :)

Rob - SO tempted to call you; the theological conversation when we're both this exhausted would be amusing. :) But I'll refrain for the sake of your kids staying asleep. I've heard rumors about that to which you set the ringer on your telephone. :)

Peace to you, my friends. And I think, if the invitation's still open, I may come visit you over New Year's. :)

Sara said...

You're always welcome.

You wouldn't have woken up the kids . . . at the moment, our only handset is downstairs and all the bedrooms are upstairs. The jack in our bedroom doesn't work. It's a problem we're addressing.

And yes, that was a typo in paragraph 4.

Anonymous said...

Hap, I think that's why we are instructed to "take up (our) cross daily" and follow him. (Luke 19:23) Surrendering our will and submitting to him on a daily basis is so important and something I know I forget to do. It's in the conscious act of giving him a new day that I believe at least enables us to re-focus. You've inspired me, I'm gonna try to remember to give him every day as it starts, then put things right as it ends so I can begin again with a clean slate.

Maybe we can challenge each other to try this for a period of time and see if it brings any obvious change?

Love you.

Happy said...

Rachel, I think that sounds like a wonderful idea. :) Let's do it!