Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
January is always a time of reflection for me as we cross the threshold into a new year. Last year I was all set to project some goals for 2011, goals which were, in essence, no more than an extrapolation of the things I had done in 2010. Yet last January, God spoke to me clearly about this. He showed me that to base my future direction on my direction so far was unwise. Worse than that, actually. It was stupid. Because when you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got.
To orient myself for 2011 based on my successes in 2010, based on the gifts which had already come to the surface in my life? Such a process of orientation was deeply flawed. It could only take me where I had been.
And I should have known better.
Perhaps I did. From what I posted then, it would seem that I knew that my doing – my one-track, single-focus drive for success – only served to hide the reality that I did not know where I was going.
It was, as I put it in a sermon earlier this month, a case of climbing even more rungs on the ladder.
A ladder which might one day turn out to be against the wrong wall.
So 2011 was a year of learning to be, a year of dwelling in the simplicity of the Son’s doing as he told it in John 5:19, a year of seeking to understand what that meant for me. Though I read vast portions of the Scriptures in the year (being at Bible college does mean that you get around the Bible a bit in the course of a week!), I came back again and again to this thought.
The Son could do nothing of his own accord but only what he saw the Father doing. And to see what the Father was doing meant spending time in his presence. Just being. Knowing his identity as the Father’s Son. Living in that and letting his doing flow from that relational connection.
This year-long reflection, this dwelling in just one verse, was not intentional in 2011. It just happened. But, in just happening, it added richness to my walk with God. I learned perhaps one of the more important lessons of my faith-life so far.
That he is the stability of my times.
That in returning and rest, in quietness and trust, are my strength.
That the doing which is going to make sense of God’s call on my life has to flow from first being. Being in his presence. Listening to what he is inviting me to become and to do.
So, this month, when I preached our first service of the year, I spoke about this very lesson.
I’d meant it really as an explanation of why the leadership team was not producing a massive plan of goals for our church to achieve this year. I’d meant it as an explanation of why our only vision statement as a church is a sentence about who we believe God is inviting us to become – ‘an outward-reaching community of disciples’. I’d meant to invite our people into an understanding about why we feel that our most significant strategy in our becoming is going to be prayer which takes us to the heart of God, rather than an endless list of goals like every other church I know.
And maybe they heard it like that. I don’t know. I hope so because otherwise I’ve got problems later on this year! Problems when they realise that we’re not necessarily doing all the worthy things which other churches are doing. Problems when they realise that instead we’re wasting time at the feet of Jesus in as profligate a way as we know how. So I hope these precious people caught that vision for the church or I’m going to be paying for it later!
But, at the very least, I know that many heard God speaking to them personally. I know because they told me so, and when you’ve preached in one place for as many years as I have, people give up commenting on your preach unless it was truly terrible or incredibly impactful. At least it seems to have been the latter this time!
People heard the invitation from John 5:19 and – my latest Scriptural hang-out! – Luke 10:41-42. They heard a call to the ‘one thing’, a phrase from Luke 10 which I think will haunt me all year. So many of us there that Sunday had been seeking the ‘one thing’ in 2011. ”What is the ‘one thing’”, we would ask, “the one thing which God wants me to do for him and with him?”
It was my question too. My life always seems to have multiple strands. To be one step away from total chaos. All year, I had longed to rationalise things, commitments, strands of doing. I had longed to know what was the ‘one thing’.
Then, on the very first day of 2012, I fell upon Luke 10:41-42 as if I had never read it before. As if a direct message from the heart of God came the words, ‘one thing’. Slap bang in the middle of a passage which I must have read tens of times.
And what was the one thing? To sit at the feet of Jesus.
Only in that place will I learn who he is inviting me to become. And only from there, that place of being, that place where who I am depends on the One who invited me into relationship with him…from that place alone can my doing flow.
That’s true for the church too. Goodness knows, I am the queen of lists and goal-setting. I could come up with a formidable list of things for the church to achieve for God in 2012! But to do so would, I suspect, be a repeat of the same mistake I was about to make with my own life last January. Because until we, as a church, know whom God is inviting us to become, until we invest in the one thing of sitting at his feet, we will not know what it is which is on his heart uniquely for us to do in our little corner of London.
And when we know who we are? When we wait on the Lord? Well, then it will be that what he is asking us to do becomes obvious, a natural overflow of our becoming.
What about you? Is your doing, your church’s doing, an overflow of a knowledge of who you are when you sit at the Lord’s feet? And how could 2012 be a year more dedicated to the ‘one thing’?