Living Outside the Boxes

I spent much of Monday making phone calls and visiting websites, doing those things that one does before a move: scheduling utility starts and stops, reserving a U-Haul. I struggled through the questions that used to be so simple. Have you lived in your home at least twelve months? Where are you employed? 

This image is by artist Rhea Brown.
In the last year, I’ve already moved out of two homes, this is the third. If you count my efficiency at seminary, this is the fourth move in less than twelve months. I am on a Spirit-led journey that was spurred by a “Holy Spirit moment” in the summer of 2010. I perceived a call to new church ministry. I am in what church bureaucracies call, discernment. I’d argue that I’m not so much discerning as waiting, listening and responding, and waiting some more as the Spirit reveals the form of this new thing (Isaiah 43).

This journey makes answering where I’m employed even more difficult.  My primary vocation is following the lure of the Spirit. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay much. To help cover a few bills, I substitute teach in several early childhood programs. I’ve actually turned down two full-time teaching positions in my commitment to a Spirit-led life. You can see why corporate America and our mainstream culture don’t know what box to check regarding me. 

Even some church people don’t seem to “get” me. Yes, some understand what it is to be Spirit-led but there are probably more folks in the pews who don’t. They  smile and affirm me in that way that exudes respect but lacks understanding. You know it’s like they think I’m crazy but they love me anyway. Some institutional (including judicatory-type) churchfolk try to fit me into their institutional models or suggest I send out my search and call papers. Even the traditional discernment process doesn’t seem to fit me. I am convinced that I’m called to something radically different. Consequently, I even feel uncomfortable with the term “new church.” 

None of these challenges of striving to follow the Spirit are helped by God. God seems to have a need-to-know policy on where this is all headed. How hard would it really be for God to email me a copy of God’s business plan! There are times when I grow weary of this counter-cultural path upon which I find myself. Often I feel devoid of the language to describe to others who I am and what I am experiencing. 

After my Monday of squeezing myself into corporate boxes, I was blessed by a tweet quoting Henri Nouwen.

“Jesus . . . asks us to move from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us. . . .”

In less than 140 characters, I felt my angst of following the Spirit validated. Nouwen encapsulates my struggle between living in a world of taking charge and a world of being who God calls me to be. Our culture, within and outside of the church, is based on power structures, hierarchies, planning, deciding, and doing. Success is defined by the matrices of popularity, dollars, bodies in attendance, endowments, and of doing. I am striving, however, to discern the Spirit’s gentle nudges, to be who the One created me to be. When Jesus called James and his brother John, they got up and left their father and their fishing business behind. They did this to follow Jesus (Mark 1: 14-20). 

This is what I strive to do as the Spirit beckons me forward: to follow the One who breathes in God and lived the life he was called to live. Though I stumble over questions asked by utilities and sometimes give in to the temptations of a culture more concerned with things than people, I have left my boat. I’ve left my fishing business to follow the One who embodied the extravagant love of the Divine.

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