24 April 2006

Questions ... and more questions

Among the many blogs I follow (and there are too many) is one by by a Canadian who calls himself Brother Maynard (after a character in Monty Python’s Holy Grail). He has quite a story and has come out of the charismatic tradition. Sometimes I feel quite a kinship with his thoughts and can see him at his spot on the road. He posted a couple of posts recently about calling that have led me to wrestle through some thoughts of my own. I didn’t want to clog up his comments section with everything that’s wandered through my brain on the subject. I thought it more polite to keep it on my own blog. He was talking about whether or not one’s calling can ever be rescinded (you can read his posts here and here ... they're very good); if God reveals a calling to you but then never or rarely uses it. How does that affect a person? Does the hope dry up? If it makes us bitter, are we less faithful? Indeed how are we to handle those unused callings?

Here's something that I'm only beginning to wrestle with. This is the first time I've put words around it and that means this is going to be clumsy. But here in the North American church I think we've gotten the idea in the last 100 or so years that God is going to make our paths easy. That all the things that come from Him are going to be wonderful and good and pleasant. Comfy couches, soft breezes, easy streets. If He gives us a calling, then all the doors are going to magically open for that to happen and others will shut. That tired and overused expression, "When God closes a door, He'll open a window," comes to mind. But when I look at the church around the world (particularly in the developing world) and the early church, that's quite a load of hooey. I’m really not sure that’s how God works. In fact, just reading the Gospels tells us that God doesn't give his disciples easy street. Jesus tells us right up front ... this is going to be hard; harder than anything else. He tells us, "Don't follow Me unless you really, really, really love Me, because in large part it's going to suck. I'm going to ask you to die for Me, leave your parents, etc. etc."

We've all gotten sucked in by this "Good News" ... and for the North American church it's all Good. Well ... yes, the Gospel is indeed Good News. We do have eternal life. But life here on this earth isn't going to be easy street. And that's the part I think we've gotten mixed up somewhere along the way. We live between the tension of a world made in the image of God and a world that is broken. A world which was made to function perfectly and yet doesn't. People born imprinted with the image of the Divine and yet grow into adults who will do the worst and best to one another. That's the tension that we live with and have to acknowledge. Just having Jesus doesn't make that all go away like a magic spell.

I think too of how butterflies come to be. That if they do not struggle and strain to get out of the chrysalis their wings are not formed properly and they cannot fly. That sometimes it is the obstacles and impediments that give us our wings and if we do not walk through those times, we will not be able to be who we need to be. What we need to hang on to is that in those times, God is good and He will be with us. Those are the real promises He’s made.

I struggle with this balance between seeing the image of God in all of creation and yet knowing the Fall has created a brokenness that means evil will cause obstacles and problems for me. I struggle with the balance between being/meditating/sitting in God's presence and doing. There is that tension between Mary and Martha ... John and Peter. Jesus never picked one over the other, both were important. We also have to somehow find a way to live in the space of the tension between both.

As I said, I'm just starting to wrestle this through and it makes me sort of scared to even say it in my "out loud" voice. Because I wonder what trials I have waiting for me? What does saying this bring down upon my head? And in a certain sense those questions make me very superstitious. But I think that some of the "tricksies" that we have come up with in a feeble attempt to read the mind of God, are just that ... tricks and somehow they have worked their way into warp and weft of the Christian culture as if they are also part of the Gospels. Saying "what you meant for evil, God uses for good." is just too easy, imho. I don't think we can know the ultimate outcome. It makes the speaker feel good to say those words (and they are usually spoken with humility and with a good heart to be sure), but who are we to say what is good and what is evil? How do we know that? When I read the Gospel accounts Jesus constantly turned the current cultural definitions on their ears. I think He'd do the same today.

On the flip side of the coin ... or something. I think we have to redefine “good” and “evil.” Or, we have to understand that it is arrogant of us to think that we can can even begin to comprehend God’s definitions of those terms. Those spots in the Bible where we are told that He will reward good and punish evil are clearly not born out in this world. So something isn’t adding up. I really think we don’t understand the terms, and perhaps it’s arrogant to think we ever could.

I should probably write something very erudite and conclusive here. But I have no conclusion. Just more questions.


Blogger kate said...

Amen, sister. Amen, AMEN.
I'm sorry to say I haven't read the other posts -- I should, at some point -- but I wanted to say two things, regarding call: 1) Are we always clear on what our call actually is? Maybe we're mistaken. We might want to be called to something grand (in our eyes), but maybe God didn't actually intend to use us in the ways we're convinced that He did.
Also -- we're so shortsighted. Me, too -- all of us. We haven't the patience, wisdom, etc. to just sit and wait. God does much through the suffering, and He works much through the waiting, too. Are we going to sit here at age 30? 40? and say that, even if we DO have a sense of our call, that if God hasn't fired us up for it yet, He isn't going to? I think a lot of people won't know their calls until they have already completed them. Kind of like -- when you're a kid, do you want to be a fireman, policeman or ballerina? There are so many other things. You might not even know of their existence.
Well, maybe not so much like that. :)

4/25/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Yeah, the whole concept of calling is something I think should most of the time be rather unclear. Maybe general is a better word than unclear. History shows us how the masses of people live ordinary, lives and rarely receive any notoriety for their accomplishments. This, in my mind certainly does not devalue the "ordinary" man or woman, it is just reality, and it shouldn't diminish the fact of one's calling. It might make that calling less specific, but it is still a calling. Let's face it chances are we're not going to become famous and receive a Nobel Prize. Too often, it seems that pride leads many to feel inadequate when they don't accomplish "big things for God." Furthermore, I think this idea is of misunderstanding "calling" is problematic in churches due to hundreds of years of clergy/laity distinctions which leads to the big/small dichotomy. Stimulating and interesting thoughts guys.

4/25/2006 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger A Sower said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments about the comfortable American church that seems to be more focused in on itself than on a hurting world. It seems to have forgotten that it's supposed to be salt and light. I think God will be shaking it up soon if it doesn't remember its mission.

As to what we accomplish as Christians, I've wrestled with that many times. I usually do my thinking about such issues in the garden. I sometimes wonder why God has me where he does instead of out doing something significant? Perhaps I've not been faithful enough in the little things and he hasn't seen fit to trust me with bigger things. Or maybe He's more interested in what I am than in what I do. Or maybe I'm letting the urgent choke out the important. Or maybe all three.

We also need to remember that no life is ordinary to God. He can build his character into any life that yields itself as a vessel for the potter to mold. And He decides what the vessel will be used for.

4/30/2006 04:09:00 AM  

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