Friday, September 12, 2008

The Scary World On the Other Side of the Slider

For well over a year God's been working on me in a big area of rebellion in my own life. My big sin ... refusing to be content to be a mere creature. I've been tempted to dismiss this as a little thing. But the longer I've dwelt on it and meditated on my own attitudes in comparison to God's Word, the more I've become convinced it's one of the most insidious and prevalent sins I commit.

It's insidious because the more I think about it the more I realize that multiple daily sins flow from it. It's prevalence is staggering in that this sinful way of thinking has been for 19 years of Christian living my default mode of life.

Let me explain the title and then describe a bit of what I've learned. It's as though in my life there is a sliding glass door I can see through. The world on the other side of the sliding glass door is more pleasant, more honoring to God, less stressful, and involves living in the real world God made. I don't live in that world except rarely. I can see how nice that world would be but it scares me.

I've always been one of those annoying type A people (well at least annoying for non A's). I've always believed I could get it done in the world. And I did well in the world before I began doing ministry. Then things got scary.

For years I've taught that the more you believe John 15:5 the better your discipleship will go. But my practice of that verse has not kept up with my teaching of it. In the spiritual realm things are quite different than in the realm of making good grades or playing a sport or leading a team. While all of those activities require God given skills, if you use the skills you'll likely succeed in the world's eyes. Not so in ministry.

One can do all the right things in ministry and still not "succeed" as many measure success (Harry Reeder says a false way of evaluating success is the "nickels and noses" test). No, ministry is a God thing in which you play a part but don't fully determine (or many times even partially determine) the outcome. That is, there is much ambiguity in ministry as there is in life in general. And that's where things get scary for me.

Why are they scary? Because I can't be the one in control of how things end up. In my more lucid moments I can see that I'm not the one in control of how things end up and that this is a good thing. If only those moments were more frequent.

I look through the sliding glass door and see how wonderful it would be to be comfortable being a mere creature and yet I feel so far from that. I show all the symptoms of wanting to be God instead of being content to be a creature. What are my symptoms you ask? Let me name a few:
  • Fear/worry/anxiety
  • An "I can do it" spirit evidenced by relative prayerlessness
  • Expectations of myself and others which are unrealistic
  • Perpetual rehashing of things said or done with prayer and wisdom which didn't work out well
  • Concern over the reactions of people to whom I've acted righteously but over whom I have no control
Maybe you exhibit some of these symptoms as well. With the help of CJ Mahaney's helpful little book Humility I've come to see that my unwillingness to be content within my creaturely limits is plain old pride. Like my first parents Adam and Eve I'm daily seduced by Satan's oldest line, "you can be like God". I'm coming to see that I wasn't made for that.

So much of the expectation I put on myself about the past, present, and future isn't stress God expects me to carry. I'm now in the business of trying to see that the world on the other side of the slider - where I'm content to be a mere creature - is the desireable world. I'm seeking for God to convince me of my limits and to help me embrace and enjoy them rather than living in unreality where I expect of myself that which God doesn't.