I am a perfectionist at heart. I like to have a controlled environment. I want to be able to see my dreams and endeavors to their proper conclusions. There is a sense of satisfaction in that, a sense of accomplishment. To be in a state of disorder or incompleteness is one of the most stress inducing experiences for me. And yet it seems like these days in ministry, all my work is all rough drafts. Its all starts. Its all important things that need beginnings but that I am not allowed to see through to the end. This is really challenging for me. To live in a life of labor all surrounded by rough drafts. It is unsatisfying. It is anxiety inducing. And it is very formative.
So I thought I’d kick off this whole operation by sharing a little something I’m reading in Mike Cosper’s book, “Rhythms of Grace”. We youngsters are always asking how we can make our christianity and our worship more real, more authentic, more powerful. We are on the search for a more real experience of the christian life. Within this search for myself I have been seeing more clearly, not only that our true worship flows from the gospel, but that the good news must occupy a certain kind of space in our lives.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not merely a formula for spiritual regeneration. It is the story of reality. It is the epicenter of God’s plan to make all wrongs right again, the one source of hope and beauty in a world of decay. As a human being, I am wired to do much more than process and agree with data. We are made as those who long for meaning and satisfaction in all that we do. We don’t want our lives to merely exist, we want them to sing. The question is, what is the tune that animates our whole reality?
Last year, in a conversation with a friend about parenting, he made a statement that stuck with me. He said, “I think the best model of parenting my own children is the way that God relates to me as a father.” I didn’t really get it at the time, but for some reason it has stuck in my mind.
Over the past weekend we have welcomed the newest member of our family and I have naturally wandered back into reflecting on the past year and the nature of parenting as it relates to all of life. I come back also, to this statement, and I think am starting to catch on to its meaning a little more.
I think the key issue is to see the basis and beauty of personhood in parenting.
We live in a world that seems to be more divided than ever before. The issues that separate culture today are sharp and complex. We have seen the news. Race. Gender identity. Inequality. Corruption. Poverty. Terrorism. In this harsh setting, many christians feel utterly puzzled when it comes to expressing their faith in an effective and compelling way. Often times we don’t even know where to start.
Scripture calls the people of God to be a powerful missionary force of love, wisdom and healing in a world that is continually falling apart. Something is deeply missing in the lives of many christians today. They seem to be totally blind to the power of the answers that they hold.
The problem is that many of us have been raised in the religious setting but have never really asked ourselves how our christian convictions fit into the broader landscape of ideas that fill this world. We may have accepted our christianity as our faith system but we have never asked how it extents to all of life, or how it interacts with the big questions that every person around us is asking.
How does the gospel pass from simply being our private Sunday morning routine to empowering our thinking, speaking and action in every aspect of culture and society? How do we learn to think as christians in an anti-christian society? How do we deal with the complex line of questions that are fired at the church today?
These are just some of the questions that we will ask at this year’s youth retreat. Join us for a stimulating, challenging and empowering time of rooting ourselves deeper into the true power of the gospel for all of life.
Where do we find that true sense of identity and personality for which we so deeply long? We may look inward, thinking that we are the greatest and most complex beings that exist. We can set ourselves high on a pedestal. We can spend our whole life trying to prove to ourselves and everyone around that we are as good as we imagine.
Or we can see it slightly differently. We can see our personality as a reflection of the greater light from which which we get our being. We can see that we are vessels, and that the glory to which we strive cannot indeed be contained in this little world. We can see that our true greatness lies in the greatness of the One to whom we owe our breath.
Thus there are two ways to personality. There is the bondage of working hard to live up to the standard that we set for ourselves and hoping that it will deliver. Or there is the liberty of opening our doors to our need in our Maker, and letting him welcome us home. C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”¹
- Beyond Personality, C. S. Lewis (1944).