Monday, November 22, 2004
What Happened To My Heart?
You see, in October of 2003 I made a few decisions. I was going to follow Jesus, because He was leading in directions that looked better than where I'd ended up. I wasn't, however, going to just follow the crowd. I had nothing to lose so I simply asked God to explain everything He was doing. I wasn't daring Him, or challenging His right to do with me whatever He wanted, but I'd been so badly burned by churches and Christians who were supposed to know all about God that I decided I was going to use my own judgment as best I could.
This could have been a disaster. After all, my own judgment had led me to reject God and try to figure out life on my own, and I'd failed. I had, however, started asking God for help in finding truth, and He honored my request. With His help I was able to find, or cut, a way through the thicket of competing ideas. The Bible is very good at cutting baloney. The truth that He helped me find turned out to be shocking. I still remember the day I got the idea that it was normal to have two-way conversations with God. I got brave one day and mentioned that to Eric, of Mosaic, while we were having lunch, and he looked at me and smiled. So much for my weird ideas.
I had another weird idea at around the same time. This one I mentioned to no one. It came out in various subtle ways: in the stories I wrote, in Emailed messages, in my continued assumptions about living as a follower of Jesus. I kept it a secret because it was too radical, especially in a church whose pastor is constantly talking about giving our lives away. I couldn't see any alternative, however, to my belief that God cared about me. That was radical enough, but as months went by His care became even more radical. He cared for me during that long period when I denied Him, and He cares about me now when I really don't care much about the rest of the world.
Honesty goes a long way with God. As Erwin said, "The safest place for a sinner to be is at the feet of Jesus." Jesus doesn't judge me.
A gardener doesn't complain when she plants a seed and there's nothing growing the next day. An acorn that falls from a tree here in southern California has to wait for the conditions to be right. If it gets fooled by an early rain, it could germinate and then get hung out to dry in November. More patient seeds will start growing when rain is more reliable, and get a good root down before summer comes. Christians are great at exhortation but not so good at nurturing, so we have a lot of dying seeds lying around. It takes a certain amount of strength to resist popular teaching and listen to God's sure guidance.
Exhortation is easy. Throw your words out and be done. Nurturing is work, and you have to get your hands dirty. Every day, or at least often enough to be a real presence in someone's life. Having experienced this many times, I've very careful with what I show to others. I don't like conflict.
Conflict is, however, one thing warriors do. If something is right they go on believing it even when everyone else disagrees. I'm not afraid to tell others that I'm a follower of Jesus, but I am afraid what might happen if I tell Christians that I don't buy the "It's not about you" idea. At best, that is partial truth. At worst it's a tourniquet that squeezes the life out of people's walk with the Lord; all acts become dutiful, and how is that going to attract anyone? Would anyone shout from the rooftops about duty?
There's no point in seeking conflict, but when the subject comes up I should speak my mind. If an idea doesn't fly it's not my fault, and yet I feel as if I've done something wrong. The other person is always right. I've sold out my warrior heart for a smooth road because that's all I can handle. I have an idea that God may be changing that.
It's His choice. I still have no dream of what I want to do. I wonder if God will give me one, or perhaps after He gets my candle lit and burning, that will illuminate a new dream. Perhaps as He keeps pouring His love into my desert, things will grow that will produce fruit, but I don't think that's His major aim.
What He wants is for me to be whole, for no other reason than I'm beautiful in His eyes. Right now the beauty is buried under years of junk, but He sees me through Jesus and therefore as He made me.
Thank you, Lu, for reminding me. I hope everyone reads what you've written.
I have to be honest and say, in the moment that the phrase, "it's not about you" was spoken I chose not to say out loud what I wrote in my post. It was in a group setting and I felt that to do so might be disrespectful of the one leading the Gathering. Had it been a smaller group, or just our launch team, I probably would have spoken up. But I felt it would be better to show respect for the speaker by not contradicting him in front of so many than to say what was really on my heart and risk him losing face.
It's not that "face" is all-important. But, well, it is important. Especially when we are still trying to gain some credibility.
I suppose one could argue I should have spoken up precisely because of the credibility issue. But, I don't know... I just felt it best to keep my mouth shut.
So I came home and vented to the "public at large". :)
In fairness to the other side, I think there are people who need to be told, "look, it's not about you. Get over it." Sometimes we can get our heads so far up our own butts we make Chinese acrobats look stiff and inflexible. And a good friend will be honest enough, and love you enough, to say, hey, get your head out of your stinky place... 'cause you are far too wrapped up in yourself right now.
I know where Rick Warren was going with this phrase. And I understand what my teammate was trying to get at Sunday night. I get the concept that there's a big world out there that desperately needs Jesus. I also get that there are people in the Body of Christ who absolutely don't get that concept.
But I'm fast coming to the conclusion that we'll never get those folks to understand and really grasp the concept of a world outside of them by constantly beating them over the head with the "it's not about you" mantra.
I don't think God uses that phrase with us, at least not with the tone I've heard my brothers and sisters use. I have had Him on occasion readjust my head so that I'm actually looking at what HE's looking at... with the subtle "yo, it's not all about you babe..." look in His eye. But there's usually a twinkle there too. And a sense that He's more amused at my own self-absorption than He is angry.
See, what I've discovered in my own life is that the closer I draw to God... the more intimately I get to know Him, the wider my view is of the world. And the bigger my heart is FOR the world. It's as if God stretches my heart and then pours out His love into it. So that every person I see, every people group that comes to my attention (whether I see them on the street or on tv), my heart aches and breaks for them and cries out to God on their behalf.
But it all starts with recognizing that it really IS about ME. Weird.
I'm tellin' ya... God's "economy" is completely upside down. And I love it!
...okay, I really think I should go to bed now...
What I feel for God's economic ideas is something I don't have the words for. He moves us into a different world.
Our world runs on scarcity, and demand dictates the price. What God gives us is more precious than anything a bank can hold, or a jewellery store, but it is as common as sand and more free than air.
I've lived a parsimonious life so long that I still don't understand what God gives me every day. I keep thinking in terms of price, and billing, and how much can I get before I'm cut off. How much more love will God give me before He starts telling me that I've really had enough, that I should be more productive?
Generosity might just be infective. God is generous with us, and continues to be so as we follow Him, and He seems not to calculate a return on His investment. He shares because that's who He is. If we respond at all, we get more.
The more of God you get, the more you want. A drug-dealer's dream, except that in this case what He is giving is life, and becoming dependent upon God expands our lives rather than narrowing them. Amazing. It takes time to learn this.
We all tend to hang onto history. Whatever pattern I learn first is the pattern I stay with. Somebody tells me "It's not about me," what can I do but believe it? I don't know anything about God at the start, so I have to take people's word for it. You can't be a Berean if you don't even know what questions to ask.
Even a true iconoclast will run into trouble because learning about God has to come through so much societal "knowledge." Everyone says they know God. It's a simple topic, right? No one expects anything different. The iconoclast comes to church and wants to know what's true, and promptly runs into lots of information masquerading as truth.
I can't express how fortunate I feel that I came to Mosaic instead of some other outfit that believed more in ritual than God's truth. I wouldn't have held still for that, having learned various ways to identify truth. I think the Holy Spirit was helping me with that.