Archive for January 2012 – Page 2

Success and Vulnerability

The truth about myself is often hard to see. It is easy to overlook my own brokenness precisely because it is such a part of who I am. I have grown accustomed to it. The log in my own eye seems normal, which makes it far easier to play doctor to others than to examine my own wounds.

In my experience, one of the main things that the Holy Spirit does is to uncover the hidden wounds that have become so normal to me. The Spirit reveals that which is buried under the surface, shining light in the darkness. It exposes the truth, and offers me the chance to embrace it, though it is often painful.

In recent days, God has been revealing my own hidden selfishness. The Spirit has drawn my attention time and again to the many ways in which I put myself first. My self-centered way of living is so normal that, without God’s help, I would never have noticed it.
It is easy to assume that my life and my needs are at the center. I have been brought up in a society that encourages me to conceive of myself as the protagonist in an epic story. Since I am the “main character,” it is easy to assume that what is best for me is best in general. And as a Christian, it is easy to confuse my own preferences for God’s will.

This false worldview is hard to break through. Mainstream American society is built around the idea of the autonomous, self-sufficient individual. Nowhere is this more true than the labor market. Today, it is widely assumed and understood that each person must operate as a free agent, without ultimate loyalty to any party or organization. We are encouraged to think of employment as a transaction, to calculate what we are “worth” to a prospective employer in dollar terms, and to justify ourselves as commodities.

In this environment, we are encouraged to be self-focused, because it can make the difference between a good-paying job and unemployment. When we interview, we present ourselves in the most positive terms possible. We play up the best parts of ourselves, because we fear that revealing any weakness might cost us the job. And, most of the time, we are probably right. Success, in the world’s terms, depends on self-promotion. We learn to fight for our own advancement, rather than seeking out the good of the organization and society as a whole.

I feel convicted of the ways in which I personally play into this dynamic. The path of self-promotion feels safer. It is easier to clothe myself in human strength, attempting to impress others with my embellished accomplishments. Yet, I feel God challenging me to live in a way that lays bare my own fragile humanity. I feel called to seek the truth recklessly, and to lead a life of simple trust and vulnerability.

What would it be like if I were to shed all fear of my fellow men and women? What if, instead of calculating how others might help or hinder my own ambitions, I opened my eyes to God’s incredible love for them – and acted on that?

Where Is Home?

In the years since I moved from Kansas to Washington, DC, there has been a slow transition taking place within me. For quite some time after arriving in DC, I thought of myself as a Kansan temporarily living in DC. As time went on, however, I came to feel increasingly integrated into life in DC. My center of balance began to tip.
I became aware of this tipping during a visit to Wichita in May of 2011. While there, I was surprised to encounter within myself a sense of alienation from the way of life in Kansas. I was used to DC’s high-pressure, accelerated lifestyle, and after almost two years away from Kansas, my hometown of Wichita seemed sleepy, mellow and unambitious. “Why is everyone so slow?” I wondered. A Wichitan might ask, “why are you in such a rush?”
Since that trip, I have continued to change, imbibing more of DC’s pace and mannerisms. Returning to Kansas for Christmas this year, there is no doubt in my mind that DC is now more home to me than Wichita. This is huge. Three years ago, I never would have fathomed this happening. Once a Kansan, always a Kansan – I thought. Yet, somehow in the course of just a few years, DC has become primary.
How do I explain this? What makes a place home? Is it the place where you grew up? Is it where you keep your stuff? Maybe it is proximity to satisfying work or recreation? Or is it the presence of family and friends?
All of these things are important as components of what makes a place home, but the core is something more subtle. For me, the essential question that determines where I call home is, “Where is God calling you to serve?” Only this question – and the answer that I find in the Spirit’s call on my life – has the power to transform me into someone who is at home in Washington, DC.
Jesus Christ has called me here, and he walks ahead of me in the way. The Spirit gives me breath to say to him, like Ruth before me, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.”(1) He himself becomes my home, and his word becomes my residency. I will be at home wherever he plants me, though it takes years to adapt.
1. Ruth 1:16