Introductions: 1)All Quiet on the Western Front.(From John Doe, Disciple – pg.139); 2)Youtube: “The Rose” by Westlife.
The very obvious point of these introductions is that there is always a risk when we dare to reach – and especially when we reach for what the butterfly represents: the beautiful, finer and more fragrant things of life; that which is noble, honouring and dignifying – that which makes a positive difference in a very broken, twisted and hurting world. To make a difference we must become the difference we hope to make.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote: I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. In that first phrase we find the real challenge in this, the fear or sense of risk – ‘I have become’. It’s the whole idea of becoming something we are not, something we have never been, something different in order to bring difference.
But what is it we actually fear about reaching? I want to site but one issue that I think is most common to all who fear reaching. Before doing so, we need to acknowledge that there is a certain romantic quality about our dreams of making a difference. In the extreme our dreams even awaken a sense of celebrity.
At 13, 14, and 15 years of age, when the first preliminary stirrings of God’s call to ministry began moving through my consciousness I had wild romantic notions of the difference I was being prepared to make. Billy Graham would be pigmy-like in the shadow of the difference I was destined to make. That, of course, was more about self-centred celebrity than selfless difference.
But what is it we fear? The first implication of reaching is that there is something beyond present position, and for some that is challenge enough. The second implication is that to reach whatever is beyond demands alteration to my relationship with what is – with where I presently am. And therein lies the core fear – the inherent sense of risk: How does making a difference over there impact upon the world I have created here?
The first challenge in becoming the difference we hope to make is movement. To make the difference I am called to make over there I must be open to the possibility of leaving here. But this issue of movement has far less to do with physical position than with the internal positions of the soul. Physical movement is nothing compared to the movement/adjustment of attitudes, mindsets, values, convictions and belief structures. And yet these ‘set structures of the soul’ can most hold us back from reaching beyond and becoming the difference that our world is demanding.
So what is it about these internal definitions that make them so powerful? The answer is found in the question – one word – ‘definitions’. Despite the fascination with the body in our culture we are not finally defined by things physical nearly as much as matters of the soul. A beautiful body does not make a beautiful person, nor does an “ugly” body make an ugly person. Identity is more than skin deep; it is soul reality: attitudes, mindsets, values, convictions and belief structures.
In the illustration Christ used of the grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying, He was not making reference to physical death. The issue was identity – dying to old identities in becoming more than those identities to the end of being the difference in a culture of brokenness.
I invite you to go on a flight of fantasy with me for one ridiculous moment. (First slide). You are holding between two fingers a single piece of seed corn. That seed corn has a brain and central nervous system – the ability to think and reason, the ability to communicate. You announce to it that you are going to bury it in the dirt, and while there it will not be able to see, hear, speak; all it will know is darkness, dampness and dirt. Then you give it the good news (second slide) that in a few weeks it will be six feet tall, totally green, full of majestic leaves and stately tassels – and then the best of the good news, instead of a single seed of corn your very life will have been multiplied many times over. (third slide).
If your expectation is that that single piece of seed corn is going to look at you and say,“Wow, where do I sign up, and how quickly can we get on with this?”, you are going to be disappointed. First, it has no frame of reference for all that newness you just announced.Second, it is quite comfortable with present identity. And thirdly, the process described does not exactly sound like fun and party and comfort and stability. The conclusion may be: (return to slide 1) “I am small; I am sickly yellow and my shape may not be striking, but at least I am certain of my present identity.” And with that we touch the core fear in all of our reaching – 1)the uncertainty of the process of our becoming other than what we presently are and 2) the uncertainty of what we are in fact becoming. And the terrible tragedy in this is that we fail to understand the incredible God-potential in us just waiting to be released.
And so the choice is on – a choice we will make many times in our journey because of an inherent propensity to settle down in present identity. That choice at core will always be the same – on the one hand, self-preservation, self-protectionism, self-promotion and self-serving, while on the other, true service to Christ through selfless service to those around us.
The testimony of scripture and that of history make it clear that those who have made the greatest difference on this planet are those who willingly gave away their life. Like Christ they left where they were and entered into the actual needs of others, and in so doing becameidentified with them. Only at that point of “identifying with” can we make the real difference we dream of making.
The idea of dying for someone may have a certain romantic quality about it but the unromantic truth is that dying for you means living for you.