We are obsessed with ourselves…that’s the bottom line. There isn’t a day that goes by where we aren’t thinking how life is impacting us…how it is affecting us and our plans…how we are going to get what we want…what steps we will have to take/what people we will have step on or use/or what schemes we have to pull off to make sure that our needs, wants and desires are met. OK…I’m not being cynical here…I’m just being honest that all the talk of “self-sacrifice” makes good homiletical material and looks good in a journal entry or blog post but everybody knows what really happens in most of our hearts.
I’m amazed on a daily basis how easy it is for me to become a navel gazer…”how am I feeling today? What is going to make me happy? How am I going to get what I want? How can I appease my appetites today? How is ‘this’ situation effecting my hopes for the day?” As some one said to me a long time ago, it is all good that we are so focused as followers of Jesus in saying how the Kingdom of God sets our daily life’s agenda when in truth it really is the culture demands that come first.
Now, when it comes to the journey of the “church”, this particular tendency is most blatant.
Self-aggrandizement…self-promotion…self-focus is the prevailing rubric of most expressions of “church”. As I said, I’m not trying to be demeaning or condemning. I’m just trying to help us all be honest. Most of our time in churches is spent talking about our sermons, our worship experinces, our programs, the friendliness of our congregation, the faithfulness of our strategy to the Great Commission….and even more so, when leaders in most congregations get together, the majority of their time is spent on their committees, their infrastructure, their finances, their problems, the weightiness of their decisions. Each of us need to admit (and I’ve been there so I know) that if we put side by side a chart of some kind that spelled out how much time we spend in faith communities talking about “us” versus how much time we discuss or even take seriously what it means to purposely engage the culture and live out the call of God’s Kingdom that the numbers would speak for themselves. It’s hard to admit – but it is time to confess just as they do in recovery programs…”My name is you fill in the blank Church and I’m a navel gazer”.
What would it look like for most of our time in faith communities to be spent not on talking about how we are going to be better or even more faithfully organized? When will our emphasis not be on circling the wagons in order to insure that we are protected and safe from that often “cruel” world? What would it look like if we weren’t so worried about ourselves and if we shared with our communities what life could look like IF we were focused more on “mission” than self or organizational survival?
Navel gazing makes us all feel good…we love looking on the inside for that next and greatest ‘secret’ to organizational success…whether it is leadership development, gift based ministry, the newest and greatest bible study program…so much of our time is spent trying to get our house in order instead of taking the risk of seeing how our lives and communities can engage the lives of others on the outside of our communities that really don’t care about our programs, budgets, buildings or denominational issues.
But breaking the grip of navel gazing is difficult…haven’t mastered it myself…all I know is that in order to break its grip, I’ve got to intentionally and daily takes vows of self-sacrifice and move deliberately and intentionally in living our a new imagination for life outside of secure walls sailing the seas of uncertainty with an identity of “sent-ness” by the Spirit (chew on that one for a while)
In the meantime, this means a lot to me…Lewis continues to challenge me in my journey…how about you?
“There must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self-altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him…The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes everyday and death of your whole body in the end; submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” (Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis]