Taking A Wrong Turn

My wife is somewhat of a directional savant – you can drop her in the middle of any large city and in a half an hour she will know all of the major thoroughfares and the best way to get you anywhere you want to go . . . even though she’s never been there before. I, on the other hand, am directionally challenged. When I come to a fork in the road, where logically there can only be a 50/50 chance of getting it wrong – I will lay you odds 10 to 1 that I will take the wrong turn. I don’t know if it’s that my internal compass is somehow askew, or if my mind is just elsewhere solving a more creative puzzle . . . leaving my body behind to sort out the details.

Quite often, you aren’t even aware that you’ve even taken a wrong turn until it becomes obviously, and sometimes painfully, apparent. So with just the slightest twinge of shame, igniting frustration and anger, you begin to think about how you might get yourself turned around again. However, it is in this very turning around and the journey back, where I want this metaphor to find its focus. Because it’s in the unanticipated course corrections of our life, and how we choose to recalibrate, that interests me most. For it’s in these epiphanic paradigm shifts of discovery where our real choices are made.

Because it is with these unearthed truths about ourselves, those things that come to light about the path we’re on, where we find the true crossroads of our life. No doubt our fear and shame, anger and hurt, want us to return to the bliss of ignorance — so the temptation to ignore our need for a course correction is very strong. But one cannot simply choose to un-know an unavoidable truth — it will invariably make itself even more evident over time. I believe this is the very proving ground of our faith – do we really believe that God can change us . . . and are we really interested in him doing so?

yz4Pc1FTiZNs8z1EhNZqocVJho7We just need to address these undesirable behaviors and habits, head on . . . is the way we usual think about willing ourselves back on to the right path again. But that’s just another wrong turn – as that can only lead to a perpetuating cycle of failure, shame, and even more layers of undesirable behaviors and habits. What lies beneath the surface will only leach through again. So if ignoring our need to change direction is going the wrong way, and attempting to cosmetically address our addictive behaviors and habits is just another wrong turn – then what is the right direction?

Arguably, the right direction to take, is to do the will of God — to which we profess “. . . he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion . . .” (Philippians 1:6). Which is better explained in Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who works in in you, both to will and to work for his pleasure.” We’re not merely a fixer-up project that God is observing with a critical eye – wondering when we’re going to get our act together. He is actively working to make us completely new. Our reconciliation to God is an ongoing occurrence, one that God is superintending out of his great love for us. Therefore, the right direction is to fully embrace the relationship that God is perpetually inviting you to . . .

. . . and one day, love’s going to carry you home.


That’s Not How It Works

When Otto von Bismarck in 1881, introduced the concept of retirement to Prussia’s Reichstag, it was thought to be a radical idea – because up until then people simply didn’t retire . . . and couldn’t imagine why they would. Working was so integral to how they viewed their lives; the idea of not working struck them as a form of amputation – separating them from some vital and useful part of how they understood themselves. This was decidedly an interruption to the familiar rhythm of labor and leisure, which made up their everyday life.

It is a theological misconception to view labor as part of our fall from Eden, as if it were a curse and a judgement upon us. We were designed for work; it was always a part of our intended purpose. What got broken in the fall was our relationship to work. In the same way every relationship was broken – with God, with one another, and to the world, itself. Therefore, the reconciliation of God is the only thing that can restore us back to a right relationship with our labors.

We were created in the image of a creator – let that soak in for minute. So the idea of holding idle leisure over and above our daily labors, is to place us out of balance with our intended purpose. Therefore, the notion that all of our efforts, apart from our designated spiritualized activities, in this life are nothing more than an inconsequential moving of game pieces around on a board that’s destined for destruction – is in fact a form Gnosticism . . . creating a false dichotomy between our sacred and secular efforts. And that’s not the way it works . . .

tumblr_oa4c0mIyNO1qfvq9bo1_1280All that we are, all that we have, and all that we do is to be done to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) – which has far more to do with an integrated life than a sub-divided one. Therefore, there is no divide between the sacred life and secular – there is only the life of faith that views all things as sacred. We find an expression of this in ora et labora (pray and work), a tenet of St. Benedict – where all of the tasks of the day are placed in context by a life of scripture and prayer. My point isn’t that we all must follow a monastic life, but rather that we begin to see how our life of faith is meant to be an integrated life.

So much of our culture has been shaped by the ethos of modernity, a two-story perspective – the things that we think on one floor, and the things that we do on the other. It tells us that we ostensibly live in our own heads – so that’s where the important stuff happens, like faith . . . and everything else is just idle motion in a corruptible world. In this way, modernism has poisoned our perspective. Our faith isn’t just an elevated way of thinking — but can be found in both the profound and mundane activities of our life. . . when that life is offered as an oblation to God, living fully in his presence. So we work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23) . . . because ultimately, there really is no one else to work for.

Tim Keller unpacks the importance of having a contextual narrative understanding of our vocation.