Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sifting Opportunity

Opportunity usually arrives in erratic surges; at least that’s what I’ve noticed in my life. The only predictable characteristic of opportunity is that, inevitably, there will be an ebb and flow of when it presents itself; a small gush against the shoreline, full of possible new paths or prospects, followed by a recoil of circumstance, drawing out the moisture of chance from the sand and leaving desert-like sterility in its retreat.

When opportunity does spring forward, presenting numerous paths or doors to be explored, the difficult task of sifting through the choices that are presented has to be undertaken in order to discover where, exactly, the Spirit is drawing. This is not easy for me. My first instinct is to follow opportunity wherever it leads and ask questions later. But every door that opens is not always meant to be walked through. Every path that presents itself is not always meant to taken. Sifting opportunity is difficult for me because I always have had this nagging sensation that I’ll miss something life-changing if I make the wrong life-choices. For whatever reason, I feel this strange omnipotence when it comes to having the ability to screw up my own life. Oh, how foolish I am.

But opportunity must be placed inside a sieve to determine its ultimate worth and meaning for my family and our journey. A good opportunity is not necessarily the best opportunity for our lives. Ultimately, some opportunities must be turned down. I’m learning not to jump forward just because something presents itself that sounds appealing, but to wait and ponder and pray.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celebrating Obscurity

A good friend of mine had a birthday the other day. In our brief conversation that morning, he jokingly mentioned his fear of getting older and becoming irrelevant. I responded by saying that I had already embraced the fact that I am destined for a life of obscurity and irrelevance.

After we hung up, I thought about that short exchange a little deeper. Have I really become content with the place that God may have for me? For whatever reason, contentment is something I've always really struggled with. I know a certain level of discontent is good and keeps us striving and pushing forward, but I think my issue goes a little deeper.

I heard a statistic once that stated that something like 70% of people between the ages of 18-25 think they are, in some way, going to enjoy some type of notoriety or fame. Everyone wants to be famous, and apparently, most young people in this age bracket actually believe it. Our culture is obsessed with fame, and the church is no different. Even most ministers (though most would never admit it) secretly want to pastor a mega church, or be a best-selling author, or sign a record deal.

Years ago, I wrote a song (partially, anyway…which apparently is my writing style;) that had the following lyric, “Take my hand and follow me, into the bliss of obscurity”. I was struggling then with the prospect of never being anyone in the eyes of the world. I wrestled with that reality then, and I think I still wrestle with it from time to time now. When we think of obscurity, of drifting into the background and blending in with everything else that goes on in our world, most of us are gripped with a nagging fear. Christianity doesn't automatically make us immune to this desire.We long to be unique and valued by others. We hope that our lives will stand out and that we will enjoy some type of notoriety in whatever field or ministry we find ourselves in. We all want to be known and celebrated for who we are and what we accomplish. And of course, unlike everyone else, we’re convinced that we would carry our “fame” with a modest humility.

But this is not the path that the vast majority of us will take. In fact, Christ promises the exact opposite. Parenthetically, if the culture of 1st century Judea had been as obsessed with fame as we have become, I’m confident that Christ would have included a fame amendment to go along his “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” speech to the rich young ruler.

Why is obscurity so frightening? Why is it hard for us to settle into the prospect of just having an “average” life?

Father, grant me a deep peace that overrides any other urge in my life. Fill me with a sense of Your purpose and Your notoriety and not a lust for my own.

So, I take my seat at the table of obscurity that God has prepared for me; where anonymity rids its inhabitants of any pride, greed, or itch for notoriety; where all eyes turn to celebrate the only One worthy of fame, the One who deserves this feast.