Skip to main content

Your mission should you chose to accept it...


For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen's University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

Usually there is one thing that sticks out in the hours of reading and listening and writing that I do for this online course. This week it was something that Dan Wilt said in his video teaching (Dan Wilt, Essential Worship Theology, Week 2 video of Essentials Blue online course). And I quote, "We don't have a mission; a mission gets a hold of us."

I was preparing a few thoughts to contribute to our home group meeting last night. The topic was Decision-Making: directing your life without being a control freak. Interesting topic. As I thought about it and asked God about what he had to say on the subject, I remembered this line that Dan used in the video. And at that point I clearly saw that we are a very individualistic, self-centred, self-indulgent, and unsubmissive people. We act like we are the rulers of our own one-person countries. The decisions that we make and the goals that we strive towards inevitably revolve almost entirely around what we want and how we see things.

This became evident in some of the questions and comments that came up during the evening. Questions about why God does not give us specific direction in our life but seems to leave us hanging in major life decisions. Questions about why, if Jesus has truly healed us and set us free, should we stay away from certain things? Do you see how all these queries have the black vortex of self at the centre? What these questions are really asking is "Why are you not making my life as good as I want it to be?" It is asking "What's the point of Jesus dying if it does not make me free to do what I want?" And those are just bad questions. N.T. Wright says "Many of the questions we ask God can't be answered directly, not because God doesn't know the answers but because our questions don't make sense."[1]

I am as guilty as anyone of making myself the subject of every sentence. I am always the one acting, feeling, thinking, believing, having a mission, learning, pursuing, conquering, meeting, relating, and perhaps even sometimes loving. But it is a skewed and deceptive paradigm that we are operating in, always relating everything we encounter to how it affects or impacts us. I am not the leading role in my own life: God is. I am not the primary subject: God is. I am not even the object: he is the one who originates everything and it all ends up back at him as well. How long will I write and re-write noble goals and missions for myself that sound oh so spiritual and wise before I realise that the true mission is so much bigger than me, my life, or anything I could come up with?

We discussed our purpose in life last night. Some said they want to serve God, and all their decisions are based on fulfilling that purpose. Some said they wanted to enjoy God and be enjoyed by him and they are trying to have their life choices reflect that. I realised that most of all, I want to be caught up in something that is way beyond me. I want to be overwhelmed by a larger-than-this-life God and see what he can do. I want to be so mesmerised by his beauty and love and energy that my tiny wants and desires are swallowed up into the vast wholeness of his being. I want to submit to him and to his mission.

This is the sun streaming through my window this afternoon, eclipsing everything else in the room.

[1] N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 122.

Comments

kudabu said…
Hi Matte,

I like how you put, "I want to be overwhelmed by a larger-than-this-life God and see what he can do. I want to be so mesmerized by his beauty and love and energy that my tiny wants and desires are swallowed up into the vast wholeness of his being. I want to submit to him and to his mission."

I can so relate to that! It is certainly something I strive for.

Hey, at some point I want to drop by to your church in Montreal. I am often there visiting family. Many times I have wanted to connect with your group!

Blessings
Shelley said…
HI Matte
haven't had time to drop in for awhile...

I want to throw something into your comments about how we think everything revolves around 'I'. I agree with you, but for me I have only been able to look beyond myself in search of something bigger, as you say, when my 'I' issues have been acknowledged and addressed. sounds very selfish I know. (and by addressed I don't mean they are all met, I mean they are all validated and I have made peace with my needs and their clamourings.)
I think that God is big enough to be 'all about me' and all about His whole grand purpose all at the same time. I mean I think Jesus is all about me, that is why he came. and he is all about you - he is all about each of us. Unlike us he has a huge attention span and capacity for taking care of and weaving the whole thing together. When I got that, I relaxed instead of beating myself up all the time for being selfish and self-centred. When I realize that he really will take care of me, that he does 'get me' and knows what I need, and he doesn't think my needs are wrong or selfish, then I can leave my stuff in his capable hands and look outward again. I don't need to be self-centred when he is 'on it.'

make any sense at all?

I have spent many many years feeling bad about every inner cry, thinking I was self-centred and sinful to have needs...but he made us all that way. The problem is when we set out to take care of our needs ourselves. Then we become very self-centred.
Matte Downey said…
I appreciate your personal comments, Shelley. Yes, we are needy people and God is not afraid of need - he responds a lot to it, in fact - but I would hesitate to say that Jesus is all about me. It is a difficult concept to imagine a person so utterly whole and complete that they are not needy; that in fact, they are the centre of all time and creation and all of our stories.

Most days, yes, I make Jesus about me, but on some rare occasions, I actually just humble myself and worship by letting him overshadow me in his unlimited bigness and smallness.

God is love. The subject is always God.

Thanks for your honest stories along the journey.
Shelley said…
yea I agree...maybe I am just saying it wrong. We are all needy all the time, but of course we are because we are all created to be imcomplete without God. So maybe saying he is all about me isn't the right way to say it. It is all about Him, but I think his heart is all about us, and that is love. ? I don't know if that says it right either...

I think my interpretation of denying myself for years meant that my feelings and needs weren't legit, and were in fact sinful to think about. But really I think they just are, cause that's how we are made, and everything we need is found in him. So it's all about Him.

and round and round in circles I go!!! lol

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

building the church

Imagine two scenarios: 1) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Ask them to come together and put their sticks onto a table. Invariably, you end up with a random pile of sticks on a table. 2) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Show a picture of a popsicle stick bird feeder and ask people to come together and put their sticks on a table according to the picture. You will end up with the beginnings of a bird feeder on a table.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both, each person brought what they had and contributed it to the collective. However, in the first scenario, there were no guidelines, no plan, and no right or wrong way to pile the sticks. People came, placed their sticks on the table, and walked away. In the second scenario, people were given a plan to follow and as a result, something specific was built. Instead of walking away after they made their contribution, people huddled around the table to watch what was being built. Some were…