Still working through Os Guinness's book, The Call. Each new chapter contains a greater challenge.
And as I approach a decision about what God has next for our family, I have been a little unsettled at how difficult the process really is. I spent a good part of last week grieving over the likelihood of selling a house and moving- but that is nothing compared to the next few weeks of wading through a maze of information and settling on a path of faith that will culminate in : this is God's will.....
The good news is that once we decide- it is settled. Kind of like getting married- say 'I do' and it is God's plan- work to make it work. Once you put the hand to the plow it is full steam ahead.
But up to that point.... it can almost be scary. And I am being very honest when I say that I need prayer because of some heart issues that I am discovering can be obstacles.
One thing I am struggling with, and I just have to be honest here, is a little distrust I have in light of recent experiences. The testimony of man is not a good one, and I do include myself in the profile.
Guinness has spent the last few chapters diving deep into the twisted black holes of the human heart. Pride, self-flattering ambition, moral cowardice, lackluster leadership- all of these things envelop all of us.
Sadly, even something like a 'call' can subtly turn into a warped sense of self-importance or abnormal absorption with a personal 'destiny'- like we are the heroes of our own stories.
God had to bring Jacob face-to-face with his uncle Laban to see how hurtful power and manipulation can be. Jacob, the master manipulator- had to see it in action as he worked 7 hard years only to end up with Leah when he really desired Rachel.
My 22 years in 'professional' ministry (19 as a teacher and 3 1/2 as a youth pastor) has allowed me to see the good, bad, and ugly of the church. In fact, Guinness, in this one book has told stories of people who symbolize a lot of what I have encountered as well. But none of this is effective unless I see these 'flaws' as a mirror into my heart. It is possible that my next assignment will be some type of administrative position- am I willing to be different? Am I sincerely desiring to act in a more upright way? Then I will have to begin now asking the God of grace to allow the deep heart changes that I will need to avoid the actions that I have witnessed that causes a lot of pain and suffering in a lot of people.
One of my favorite stories that could be 'so me' if I am not checked by Christ is the one that relays the work of Sir Stafford Cripps. Cripps was Winston Churchill's president of the Board of Trade during WWII. He was a type of 'Mr Perfect': vegetarian, health nut, very high moral standards- Cripps had been a cigar smoker but announced to the cabinet that he was giving up that pleasure for the war effort. Just after he made the announcement of his 'sacrifice' to a wartime rally Winston Churchill whispered to a colleague, "Too bad..... that was his last contact with humanity."
Cripps proved also to be an example of where Calvinism can create problems. I have been searching out my heart for weeks now about two deadly mis-uses of a strong sense of God's providence. The first one is that we often hide behind God's sovereignty. We look at a situation and see that it is 'not right' but we wring our hands and quote Romans 8:28. Guinness chastises the modern mega-church movement not for what it does good, but for the ferment of human pride that seeps below. The most diabolical pride is not the one that needs the applause of man, but one that doesn't care what people think at all. The practical outcome, according to Guinness, is a lack of genuine accountability for leaders. The worst type of leadership is one where leaders are surrounded by 'groupies' instead of tough-minded peers who have a true power to push-back.
The 2nd deadly mis-use of God's sovereignty is where Cripps example comes back in. Guinness mentions that Cripps "sense of the providence of God had seeped across into his own sense of self-importance. His self-regard, we might say, was a trifle high." Don't we all fear this? Here I am writing a blog- isn't there some ego attached here? Isn't there a fine line I am cutting myself on?
The quote that stings the most is what Churchill said about his President of Trade. One day Cripps left the cabinet room and Churchill quipped: "There but for the grace of God goes God."
All of this just throws me to the ground and makes me so thankful for the gospel. The good news is that God loves me. But I sincerely want His Holy Spirit to lead me into a heart for others without a fear of others. I don't want moral perfection, I want roads to relationships. I don't want to point people to me- I want them to meet the God of grace and beauty. Only He can protect me from myself.
There are tiny twists of the human heart, so sick and desperately deceitful, that turn leadership into lordship and calling into self-flattering ambition. It can even happen corporately and nationally. There is a small subtle smidgen between mission and media-stars or American exceptional-ism to American exploitation.
So here I am praying- out of my pain and experience, out of my pride- out of a realization of my sinful ways- and asking God to shine a clear light through.... What do you want me to do? And the clock is ticking loud enough now to hear it........