Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Making or Growing
It's a long-running question in my mind: How do you change people? Specifically, how do people become followers of Jesus in more than words? Are they made, or are they grown?
I've mentioned the computer game "Uru" here before. The story behind the game has interesting parallels with our society. Uru itself takes place after the D'ni civilization fell, and involves some debate on how it should be rebuilt. An organization, the D'ni Restoration Council, goes into the cavern of D'ni to rebuild but their efforts are limited to the physical structure. At the same time there are various other people who receive the call to go to D'ni and... see what happens. The call is about growing a society. The DRC is said to be putting the bones back together, but where will the life come from?
We all fell. We're fallen on hard times, hard ways, living in a world that has no real understanding of grace and human life. Naturally, we've confused assembling bones with growth. Obviously this hasn't worked.
Mary Smith becomes a Christian. She's new, so she goes out and finds a church. She starts to hear the messages about going out and saving the world and, being new, tries to obey. After a time the work collapses and she drifts away. That kind of thing is rather like asking a newborn baby to build bridges.
I know many people who are in this state. They've been saved for some time, but are simply burnt. To them, God is just one more taskmaster in a world full of them. That this God so resembles our world isn't surprising, because it's this world that our ideas of him grew out of.
There must be a better way. No one would ask a baby to do anything but grow. That's what they're made for. All of their physical characteristics are governed by the need to grow, and as the body grows so do their intellectual and motor skills. That's what babies do. All you have to do is feed them, play with them, clean them up and love them. They don't need 40-day programs in how to grow, they don't need carefully constructed homiletic examples.
We're all babies when it comes to relating to God. We may look adult, but we're not. We think we know what he's like, but it's all misinformation from the Devil, with just enough truth in it to make sense and keep us haring away after the wrong idea. I fell victim to it myself, but no more.
I want to know God. That's all. If there's going to be anything else, he will have to make me capable of it. This is the agreement we made in the fall of 2003. I expected to get thrown out, or roundly chastised, or otherwise told to straighten up and get with the program. That hasn't happened; God is not only kind and gracious, but flexible.
All he really wants is our attention. He will take care of the rest. Babies can't stop themselves from growing, and within some years what weighed 8 pounds and just ate and slept is now 180 pounds and capable of all kinds of remarkable things. There's a lot of potential wrapped up in that human being.
To achieve the potential takes a remarkable balance of art, engineering, discipline, looseness and work. Whether one makes the hard decisions and works for a good result has a lot to do with how one is brought up. There are no guarantees. Some take harsh discipline as children and become determined to go beyond. Others take the same thing and become so rigid they're barely alive. And some just give up, knowing they'll never attain to that standard.
How do you bring someone fully alive? We certainly can't do it. Only the Holy Spirit has that ability. He can get into the deepest places, to the roots from which current behavior grows. Change the roots, change the tree. We're too used to accepting "good enough," so that we don't go any deeper than is absolutely necessary. Just put another coat of paint on the old clunker and send it out again.
God could transform us all instantly. He could also get rid of us altogether and make better tools, if tools were what he wanted. He chooses to work through events and characteristics because that's who we are. Any other way would be horribly manipulative. It'd be the way the Devil tries to change things. Always by force, always keeping people too busy to attend to the roots.
The freedom that God gives is no lie, but it is different from anything we've experienced before. I see hints of this coming. I'm being freed from some of my limitations, and that freedom both allows me to speak up and gives me something to say.
God will do what he says. We are free indeed, Free to grow, and if a whole crowd of people gets this idea it'll really take off. Of course it'll be a fight. The last thing Satan wants is a whole bunch of people free from his assumptions. But, you know something? He's already lost. The outcome isn't in doubt. All we have to do is grow.