Sep 13, 2007

reviewing sabbath: the divine conspiracy

So one last time let's review the first and middle legs of my Sabbatical through conversations I tried having with God...

"God, is this opposition part of what you want to prepare me for? Is what is ahead so important than you want me to build some muscles for it now?"

"So perhaps if our theology can accept the tension of the known and the unknown, then maybe whatever is ahead in the broken, beautiful, ugly, forgiven, sinful, awesome world might just be possible... with God, that is... what a beautiful mess."

"God, what the heck?" (response: "Tony, what the heck?")

"What's the point?"

"Can atonement be a way of life?"

This is not the conversation I'd expected when I started.

Quite the Divine Conspiracy.

As previously mentioned, I was hoping for a nice, cushy, touchy-feely kind of sugar high with God through this journey. Certainly if I set aside 8 days with God I would find the spiritual meat I was looking for... especially if I'd read books and take notes and draw charts and make graphs and develop outlines and create sermons and eliminate clutter and reach goals... and so on.

Because then I could get "pumped up."
  • And then I could come back into the church I serve in all pumped up.
  • And then I could pump up the people because I was pumped up.
  • And then we would all be pumped up and go out and pump up the city, and then pump up the region, then pump up the state, then pump up the country, then pump up the world.

Only... God seems to have a different perspective about that:

"Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant. If you puff yourself up, you'll get the wind knocked out of you. But if you're content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty." (Matthew 23:11-12, MSG)

"We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (1 Corinthians 8:1b)

So... none of that pumping up happened.

  • It didn't happen the first day.

  • It didn't happen the second day.

  • It didn't happen the third day.

  • Nor the fourth.

  • Nor the fifth.

  • Nor the sixth.

But on the seventh day...

(which is sometimes called a Sabbath...)

I got a serving of crackers.

Full circle.

And I started to realize that even though I consciously don't want a God who can fit into my pocket, I unconsciously wanted Him to fit into my pocket of Sabbath. Perhaps Him pushing back on me during this time was His way of saying, "The road ahead of you just may be full of lots of bumps and bruises and hurdles... will you still follow?"

Perhaps you've tracked the Time Magazine story of Mother Teresa and how she often didn't feel that close to God. Apparently this is a big deal, because her level of service and "humanitarian efforts" (another way for describing a Christian living out their faith) made others think she was a perfection of holiness. To find out, though, that she struggled with not feeling close to God many times in her life shouldn't be all that surprising (especially since of the Bible's own noteworthy people didn't always feel that close to God either).

Can I be one of those people... on my good days... and bad days?

Because God doesn't fit into our pockets.

And He doesn't fit into our Sabbaths.

And He doesn't fit into our quiet times.

And He doesn't fit into our traditions.

And He doesn't fit into our plans.

God doesn't fit into a lot of things because what happens is He spills out of whatever we try to fence Him in with - personal religion, church history, traditional worship, contemporary methods, emergent ideology, ancient-future practices, and so on.

We have to start recognizing that it isn't God's job to fit into our idea of what Christianity is but it's our job to fit into God's idea of what Christianity is (which is basicially dying to ourselves and inviting Him to redemptively live His life through ours).

If we could get our arms around that, we would discover the pathway ahead to true life and stop making up our own rules based on the latest books or the oldest traditions. Those elements may contain slices of God, but in the end He keeps on spilling out past their borders.... so perhaps they should always be a stepping stone and never the destination.

"The Bible is, after all, God’s gift to the world through his Church, not to the scholars. It comes through the life of his people and nourishes that life. Its purpose is practical, not academic. An intelligent, careful, intensive but straightforward reading – that is, one not governed by obscure and faddish theories or by a mindless orthodoxy – is what it requires to direct us into life in God’s kingdom. Any other approach to the Bible, I believe, conflicts with the picture of God that, all agree, emerges from Jesus and his tradition. To what extent this belief of mine is or is not harmfully circular, I leave the philosophically minded reader to ponder.”

- Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
So the final summary:

  • Sabbath is more than setting a time aside but is about setting ourselves aside... and yet it does includes a time we set aside.

  • Sabbath isn't about you getting your needs met, but is about you becoming the kind of person God wants you to be... and yet in the process you do get your needs met.

  • Sabbath involves keeping your soul alive to the enigma of the Divine... and yet in the process He keeps your soul alive.

  • Sabbath involves dialogue with a God who speaks an ambiguous language... and yet He does this so we might discover the point of the dialogue in the first place.

Perhaps the application is to create a space inside of us where holy tension is acceptable, no matter what we're going through. God is so beyond our earthly senses we are incapable of rationalizing His full capacity. It doesn't mean we shouldn't try, though, allowing the Bible and the Holy Spirit to be appropriate guides.

The fact that we're even allowed to do this...

well, THAT is the real Divine Conspiracy.


Tanner Ridge said...

Beautiful... I can really relate to this as this really speaks to what is inside of me. Thanks for sharing this with us :)

Heather said...

this is why i've been rethinking the idea of asking jesus into our lives. isn't it really us taking on the challenge of participating in his life?

Tony Myles said...

Perhaps both require each other, Heather. One person may start by asking Jesus to be Savior and then allowing Him to be Lord, while another may reverse that order. You can't have one without the other, though.

And Mr Ridge... you're welcome.

Anonymous said...

this is a very good post, thanks.