Flights of Faith

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Long View of Discipleship

One of my primary identities is as a disciple of Jesus. It's a challenging identity to hold onto because it means I need to be in an active relationship with an invisible someone who speaks in many intangible ways. To be fair, that intangibility becomes more real as you press into it. In fact, it makes a certain amount of sense. I have many intangible gestures that my close friends and family would recognize right away as Josh-isms. Yet, a stranger still might be lost by my quick mischevious grins or my pursed bottom lips or that crazy laughter. There are ways of knowing me that only come through relationship, specifically one where I've opened up.

So maybe God's invisibility is not the hardest part of discipleship. One of the things I've been thinking about lately is transformation and revival. It seems this topic is one that frustrates many. Out of the people living on this Earth, my guess is many have prayed to God. (There's actually a cool study on the frequency of atheist and agnostic prayer. I'll try to find it.) My other guess is a lot of those prayers have been out of desperation and a need for transformation in some area of their lives. If the world, specifically the West, want a God, then I'm sure this is how that God would be like, much like a Genie. In essence, we don't want a God to train us or to love us consistently or to raise us up, but we do want a God to give us what would transform us right away.

By the way, I'm not here to make any "side" a straw man and knock it down. Believe me, I've wanted and still want quick fix transformation in many ways. But what if that's simply not possible? Huh? Isn't God all powerful? Yes, I believe that. But what if the sweeter path and the greatest reward is in a longer path that involves more people? For instance, let's say a girl is upset by the talents of her older sister so her first prayer to a God she doesn't know is to give her a beautiful voice. I actually want that prayer to be answered. Another beautiful voice in the world? Bring it on! However, that request might just cause further separation between the sisters (something that would sadden God). That's a bit simplistic, but I think it demonstrates the concept I've been thinking about recently.

What if a long view of discipleship by Jesus restores not just a singular issue but one's whole life? Relationships, Careers, Upbringing, Passions, etc. And what if the end goal is Shalom Peace, a peace that reorders and restablishes everything. In a sense, it's the peace of heaven coming down to Earth. It seems like discipleship is a path towards that, and it involves dyanmic proccesses embedded in relationships. Just as a genie-like prayer won't get us there fully, I don't think an individual pursuit of God will get us there either. If Shalom Peace restores broadly, then I think part of our discipleship will come through specific relationships where core issues in our lives are addressed by God directly and in the company of folks inspired by and following Jesus.

That's not to say genie-like prayers aren't answered. They are. I've had many answered, and I will continue to ask for more (scripture gives us a model for that: For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Mt. 7:8). There's something much bigger going on here then any individual requests. And our God is certainly not as one-dimensional as a genie. We are being given the option of a full service restoration by the one who actually created us. Isn't that intriguing? So, I ask for big, messy, wonderful things in prayer. Things that would change me, my city, and this world in prayer. But I also watch for how God is shaping and forming me in different seasons, through different relationships, through my engagement with culture, with all sorts of things. Because I really think a loving God wants to raise up a son in his relationship with me. And that's worth some patience as hard as it is.


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