Yesterday’s post (“…a sense of urgency pt 1…”) looked at the power of urgency in our lives, how it moves us and forces us to wade into places that may be frightening. Part of the reason for the importance of this is that our souls have been designed with a need for adventure and exploration. We can try to ignore it or suppress it, but ultimately we will be faced with a tension inside of us that demands that we exist or live; we will choose to fully embrace the idea of humanity that God has built into us, or we will embrace a posture of terminal safety and the subsequent restless dissatisfaction that comes with it. As a culture we have largely embraced the later, television has become the great family sedative that sands off the edges of our creativity and numbs the passionate places of our soul. Excessive prescription medication has become Huxley’s “happy pill”for the modern age. Obviously television and scrips aren’t the only tools used, though they may be the most pervasive and effective.
I quoted from a book by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, “The Faith of Leap”, which I recommend, as they dealt with this issue of urgency and adventure. In the opening chapter they referred to Tolkien’s words spoken through Frodo and Samwise in “The Lord of the Rings” as a portrait of the Christian story. They summarized it this way:
As people caught up in the Jesus story, we can interpret life truly only from within a larger gospel narrative where we all play a part in the constant unfolding of God’s purposes in his world. We are explicitly warned that there can be no final respite until we reach our final Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:1-11), and although there will, thankfully, be wonderful resting places along the way, these we can never settle in for too long. We rest only to be strengthened for the Journey.
The idea of a life of stagnant “ease” is not only in opposition to the Bible’s teaching of what is normative for the lovers of God and followers of Jesus, but by description we see that it has negative implications. When we close ourselves off to the potential for adventure by fencing ourselves in with extra-biblical dogmatism, traditionalism, modernism, or any other ism, we not only keep all of the “bad guys” safely out of reach, we also keep the blessings of God out there as well. This mindset that Jesus asks of us, “lose your will, your preferences, your dogmatic opinions…your life…and let me give you something better, My life”, is the definition of adventure. We place ourselves squarely in His control the moment we veer off of the wide path of Western hyper-sensibility and security.
In the account of the prophet Jonah we see some symptoms of a life lived behind a fence. Though there is much truth to the likelihood that Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was afraid of the barbarism and brutality of those people, the true reason resides deeper in the heart of Jonah and we don’t find out until the last chapter what was going on.
Jonah was an ethnocentric bigot who was more afraid of God saving people that he didn’t like than those people killing him. Racism and prejudice are central threads in the book of Jonah, not just fear. Jonah had, presumably, been resting far away from any kind of unsettling, adventurous, or dangerous assignments when God called him to go preach to the Ninevites. This lack of “kingdom urgency” led to few obvious symptoms:
1. It caused Jonah to question God’s instructions instead of embracing what he didn’t understand. – He couldn’t imagine a world in which the violent likes of the Ninevites would be rescued from judgment and punishment, he plainly forgot that the Hebrews were rescued out of the same predicament; all have fallen short. When God tells us to “go”, “do”, “follow”, or “walk” there doesn’t have to be a full understanding of the final implications, only a childlike faith that your Father won’t send you somewhere without your best interests in His heart and mind.
2. It caused Jonah to fall into a goofy theology of the presence of God, thinking that he could somehow outrun the Omnipresent creator. – In one of the more bone-headed moves in Biblical history Jonah attempts to run from God. This story has been incorrectly told by some with Jonah’s motivations for going to Tarshish as that it was the farthest point he could go in the opposite direction of Nineveh. The truth is in the text, Jonah 1:3 is clear that he, “went on board, to go…away from the presence of the Lord.” When we lose our sense of urgency our view of God can easily be skewed, likely because we become prideful and figure that He either isn’t going to move anywhere (because we wouldn’t) or that He really doesn’t care (because we don’t). But the Incarnation is explicit that God comes after His people. He trails down the one sheep and bring it back to the ninety-nine.
3. It caused Jonah to live in a wholistic state of dispassion…nothing mattered to this prophet anymore. – In a bizarre part of this story we see Jonah, nihilistically asleep,deep within the hold of the boat during a storm that had career fishermen scared for their lives. Jonah’s life, both spiritual and physical, had taken on an expendable, worthless quality. There was no passion left in him. There was no fight in his bones. This is not to be paralleled with Jesus’ thunderstorm slumber as Jesus was exhibiting a trust in His authority over nature, Jonah was merely showing a lack desire to live.
Obeying God is more than just a spiritual growth strategy, it infiltrates every part of our lives. We find that doing what God tells us to do doesn’t just count for “points” toward some kind of prize at the end of the day, but it securely sets our feet in the pathway of mission and adventure that God has laid out for us. He has created us to pioneer, to press into the unknown, to continue looking for unexplored places and unconquered hills…and He didn’t just create those us for those things, He has created those things for us:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before hand, that we should walk in them.
May we live each day combing the ground for evidence of the pathway that God has uniquely called us to travel. For it is on that path that we find, as Christian did in Pilgrim’s Progress, that no matter how dark or difficult, we will catch glimpses of the distant Celestial City and know that we are on our way to someplace special to stand before our loving Father and our incredible Savior.