Steve’s book, “Anchor Man: How a Father Can Anchor His Family in Christ for the Next 100 Years,” was a rescue from my greatest fears. Despite the fact that my wife and I had departed from the culture of divorce of both of our families, it often felt like a thin veil of consolation. The whisper of our enemy was that a new belief system and a strident commitment to marriage was nothing more than wishful thinking with inevitable failure just around the corner.
It should’t surprise me at this point, but when they discussed the challenging season of their time in the west and the heroic journey they took to arrive here, the primary role player of the enemy didn’t enter my mind. When I recanted the paralysis we were feeling in all that was set in front of us, I didn’t acknowledge him either. I listed all the catalysts, reasons, and excuses for the lack of motivation and focus, but I didn’t note the one who is most powerfully marshalling his forces against us in order to keep us from our appointed Kingdom assignments.
What we are really after is the same destination that Christianity ultimately aims for… transformation. What we want is healing, restoration, and living into the new heart that has been set within each one of us in salvation. We want to address the underlying condition driving what is on the surface. It is the irreversible change that only true transformation can bring. (It is ironic that the sword of legalism I used to wield actually produces the opposite of its intent. By forcing the reality of things into hiding, shrouded with modified behavior, the heart’s true condition is left untouched and unaffected.)
One of the unfortunate consequences we are finding in either faith-based or high-integrity leadership situations, is the rise of the bully. While operating in a "mean-spirited" environment might be more obviously unhealthy, "artificial harmony" is equally so. In those environments, the difficult conversations never seem to happen. There is little resolution to problems. Employees and divisions get silo'd, everyone operates in a vacuum, unhealthy offline conversations prevail, the company spirals without clear leadership and addressing of important issues, and... bullies emerge.
DIY in this circumstance (and maybe in every other) was a complete lie. We couldn’t have done it on our own. We were not created for life apart from others. We have a culture and an enemy that is pervasively and aggressively driving us to isolation.. It is not the intention of our Father or the recipe for His grandest glorification.
We have been assured of our happy ending. We don’t need to be worried or afraid. But, we must live in the double-visioned tension of both present and future. We need to know, as we slog through the slums, that there is glory, beauty, and restoration coming. That one great hope may be necessary for us to triumphantly and heroically continue the journey.
At the end of the day, it is the great privilege of operating at His discretion within an unfathomable personal relationship with Him, that all of this is possible. It is not merely some coaching and all the incredibly hard work of a great team, but the guidance of His hand. We get to approach the throne of the Creator of the universe and seek his counsel, direction, and blessing.
As He has invited us into being co-heirs of His Kingdom work, He enlists us in important and essential ways. The reality is that He is the great magician; both Creator and Healer of all things. But we are His hands and feet… we have a crucial role to play. In this case, He is writing such an unbelievable story and inviting my friend into playing such an essential role, that I am awaking each day awaiting the next set of surprises as well. You see, when one submits to the adventure of God’s larger story in their life, it beautifully permissions the rest of us to do the same.
I remember feeling like my wife and others were the cause of all my problems and that if they would just get “fixed” everything would be okay. Somewhere in a rising tide of a failing marriage buckling under the weight of my disappointment, I allowed myself to take some ownership of at least a portion of the issue. Maybe I was some small percentage of the problem. My false humility handled the rest. I WOULD TAKE 100% OWNERSHIP OF MY 1% OF THE PROBLEM. The arrogance of that statement makes me embarrassed even as I write it, but it was a crucial step.
For there is an invigorating momentum that comes from understanding we have a crucial role to play. There is fuel for the journey in seeing that we actually contribute and play an important and particular part in the larger story of God. It is not about taking credit, but honestly owning all the privilege, responsibility, and nobility of our appointed roles in the Kingdom. We matter. What we need are more Kings not making themselves the point of the story, but using their prominent place in the story to carry out the incredible work He has given us to do in the larger story.
I was becoming a new man with a new identity. I was putting the old man behind me and putting on the new one. As the bishop tells Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, “You no longer belong to fear and hatred.” God knew me in some precious and unique way that would redefine my life. I would bear His image uniquely and most profoundly reflect His glory through that identity.
Like it or not, we live in a “bigger is better” culture. By way of example, there is an increasing portion of our population that is determining value by how many “friends” they have tallied or “likes” they have received in social media channels. It is a numbers game where worth and notoriety are almost purely defined in numbers.
I was at a writing conference designed to help write better copy for internet and radio advertising. We went through several writing prompts to help hone our ability to state what needed to be said clearly and simply (not my strong suit). My plan to honor the objective of the abbreviating exercise, was to use less, but bigger and more elaborate words… clearly missing the point. I wasn’t the only one. Finally, in a fit of frustration, the instructor punctuated his exasperation with, “Just say the damn thing!”.
I remember when “Jars of Clay” arrived on the Christian music scene in the mid 90’s. Having been a musician in my younger, wilder days, I had a real love of quality music and musicianship and was struggling with what popular Christian music was offering at the time. It was contrived, uninspired, and frankly hard to take too seriously. So, I found it a little surreal sitting in a living room with about 40 other folks, about 5 feet from the four members of Jars last night.
Both the humility and ability to withstand the enormous pressure of his Kingdom assignment, come from carrying the easier burden and lighter yoke of his Father. In his heart and mind, it is not to his credit or discredit. He is merely executing on the great call on his life that most of us seem to avoid.
But we know that He came not to “make new things,” but to “make all things new.” That in Him, “all things are possible.” If we choose, commit, and fight for things to change, in His strength, mercy, and grace, they can. The entire Christian narrative rests on the fact when things were broken and not as they should be, God carved a miraculous path back that allows for restoration to all as it should have been. Restoration… healed, whole, and free is our true legacy.
Once we accept and believe the fundamental tenets of Christianity, it is almost wholly about “becoming” and no longer just “believing” or “knowing.” The crucial and essential journey we must make is the fourteen inches between head and heart. It's a journey I have made willingly, other times reluctantly, but have sometimes fought it with every fiber of my being (as if my very life depended on it). Our minds are the front lines in the battlefield for our hearts. If our enemy can keep us in the intellectual, we will never be able to fully know or offer the love of God.
In a podcast last week, I heard several men evaluate the growth in their lives over the previous decade. I haven’t been able to shake the conversation. In addition to applying that same evaluation process over my last ten years, there were some ideas that I have been wrestling with, in particular. One of the men contrasted the difference between doing things “for” God versus doing things “with” God. That one simple concept has had me excavating many things in my life.