Following in the Footsteps of the Kingdom

bells

“The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

Luke 12:22-34 contrasts two contradictory mindsets; one that strives after the way of the world, and one that follows in the footsteps of the Kingdom. As we listen in on Jesus teaching his disciples, we discover that the way of the world is characterized by anxiety and fear; If you’re familiar with the story of Abraham and his sons, we could call it “striving” to produce Ishmael rather than waiting patiently for Isaac.

The way of the Kingdom “waits for the LORD,” “hopes in his steadfast love,” and “trusts in his name” (cf. Psalm 33). It “considers him who promised to be faithful” (Hebrew 11:11). Because it trusts in a generous God who gives lavishly to all, it likewise gives lavishly considering of first importance those who have nothing.

Jesus said it was in losing our lives that we would find them. Perhaps this is much of what he meant; in stepping outside of ourselves we discover true life as if for the first time. What if Kingdom life has less to do with eternity and more to do with quality of life (for lack of a better term) here and now. Put differently, the example of Christ invites us to utterly forsake our old way of life, and in doing so discover a vibrant life disentangled from the dominant narrative of self-obsessed consumption; a life free from approval addiction, self-promotion, vanity, self-pity; a life lived truly in the moment, for the sake of others, free to more fully love God and neighbor.

The person most at peace with their true self–the one intimately known and loved by God with all its flaws and imperfections–is the one who is most free of self, and thus the most free to truly live.

In case you were wondering, I fail at this daily. My life is a near constant masquerade, I am recklessly self-absorbed, chronically impatient, and dangerously short tempered. Though I long to know myself as simply “one who is beloved of God” I am more likely to define myself by my vocation, denomination, education, bibliography, or any other number of things. In a way, this new season is a great blessing; once again I am ecclesiastically homeless, my “career” in ministry indefinitely on hold, and I am now a two-time seminary dropout… In other words: much of how I defined myself has been stripped away; I am forced to come face-to-face with my deep woundedness and wait for the voice of God that reassures me that even in the midst of this, I am his; by his Spirit he has claimed me as his own, and nothing can separate me from his love… how great the mystery of grace!

A Brief Update and a Response to the Question: “Where Did You Go?”

bible_and_coffee

Many people have been asking me how Seminary is going, how things are going at church, and so on. If you follow this blog you’ll also noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a good long while. In light of that, I suppose I ought to share a bit of what has passed in recent weeks with the broader community.

Allow me to answer the second question first, or at least, part of it. Much of what I posted came from devotions I was leading early in the morning at the mission. I decided to stop doing that, at least for now, for two main reasons. First, I began to feel that I would accomplish more by being present with the guys one on one than by shouting a devotion at them as they wake up in the morning. I also found that my motives were beginning to distort… I was writing the devotions less for the men and more so that I could share them with others. I suppose that would be fine, but as I examined myself I saw that I was really looking for affirmation from the people I shared with; what started as ministry had become pretension.

Second, most of the devotions I wrote came out of my personal reflections on lectionary texts and other devotional reading. During this particular season in my life (see below), I found those reflections to be too personal and painful to share.

Now for the first question. Suffice it to say, some things happened with our church that made it impossible to stay. There is a lot of hurt, and a lot of healing that needs to happen. Fortunately God gives more grace; we parted as friends with our pastor. Because of the way Whitefield is set up (emphasizing a personal mentoring relationship with a local pastor and lots of practical experience), parting from our church also meant withdrawing from Seminary.

While I still believe God has called me to ordained ministry, the overwhelming message in the last couple weeks has been “not yet,” and for the first time I am fine with that. Too long I have used Christ’s church to serve my ambition rather than loving her… It seems I have as much repenting as healing to do. All that said, It will be a good while before I am ready to think about ordained ministry or Seminary work again.

As for the future of this blog… stay tuned. I’m likely to share a thing or two on occasion. I’m still reading, praying, and meditating; I’m just doing it more for the sake of my own soul than for the sake of writing or teaching. At this point my plan is to look back on things I’ve written or worked through over the previous weeks and re-work them if I think they would be beneficial for others to read. Be forewarned: there will not be much in the way of light-hearted writing in the coming days.

Until we meet again, may the peace of Christ be with you always.