Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diving in

In his song "Dive," Steven Curtis Chapman writes/sings,

I’m diving in, I’m going deep in over
my head, I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow,
in over my head, I want to go
The river’s deep, the river’s wide,
the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in

and so on and so forth. The song is based on Romans 11:33-36 and Ephesians 3:16-19. Hmm ... what do those passages say? Let's see...

Here's the Roman's passage:

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?" 36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Here's Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Both passages speak to a saturation of sorts; an heightened experience of God's presence, through exposure to the wisdom and knowledge of God and the power of the Lord's Spirit.

What I want to suggest or propose in this post is that experiencing God's presence in this manner is essential to our spiritual growth, but will actually bring about a limited amount of fruit as well as progress where the Kingdom of God is concerned if we do not also dive in to ministry. I use the phrase "dive in" to suggest that true ministry happens when you close the gap between you and those you serve.

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer. Nouwen writes, "... pastoral conversation is not merely a skillful use of conversational techniques to manipulate people into the Kingdom of God, but a deep human encounter in which a man is willing to put his own faith and doubt, his own hope and despair, his own light and darkness at the disposal of others who want to find a way through their confusion and touch the solid core of life. In this context preaching means more than handing over a tradition; it is rather the careful and sensitive articulation of what is happening in the community so that those who listen can say: 'You say what I suspected, you express what I vaguely felt, you bring to the fore what I fearfully kept in the back of my mind. Yes, yes -- you say who we are, you recognize our condition...'"

I do not believe Nouwen is suggesting that we monopolize opportunities for teaching and witnessing with endless anecdotes from our own lives, which, whether intentionally in our motives or not, can cause people to remark, "Wow, I had no idea; poor dear; truly, you have suffered." No, somehow there is a way of accomplishing this "articulation" in an authentic manner that I simply define in my mind as "keeping it real."

I will tell you that one of the by-products of keeping it real can be a dangerous, self-righteous attitude of, "Those of you who are not in the trenches as I am have NO idea what it's like to be me..." In its purest form, keeping it real can produce an intense need for validation or confirmation or affinity from others similarly engaged; it can also lead to feelings of isolation if you don't become extremely intentional in finding ways to soothe and feed your soul with like-minded and like-occupied individuals.

Yes, there is a cost associated with diving in. But truly, at least for me, I find I cannot approach ministry in any other fashion. And I pray you will forgive me for coming off as egotistical or super-spiritual in my attempts to express what is foremost in my mind these days. I assure you quite the opposite it true.

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