Earlier this year I wrote about format. Specifically, I noted that format was central to what we're allowed to do. For example, if you live in a house instead of a gym, you can't play volleyball very well at home. But, you probably can decorate more easily. Or, a more realistic illustration; If you're married with kids, you aren't going to go on as many ski trips with the buddies (or beach vacations with the girls). Your family (the format of community you live in) determines that you will most likely go skiing or to the beach with them.
While format dictates, for the most part, what we are able to do in a broad sense, it doesn't tell us what to do within it. I've been thinking a lot about that lately. What got me thinking about this was our recent Teen Connect which is part of ourwinter camp program. Amber was reviewing the schedule for me and it sounded a lot like all of our other teen programs. Fear struck me (don't you love when fear strikes?). What if this a boring weekend? What if no one comes? What if the kids come like they always do and get tired of it because it's always the same thing?
As we talked, I realized that the people she'd lined up were excellent. The beds were nearly full, our speaker, Scott Hackman, would surely connect with them and what could be better than friends who love to be together, getting together?! It was fine. Good even. The weekend went so well that I kept feeling a bit ashamed of my earlier fears and doubts.
So clearly, our format (that hasn't changed in a number of years) was fine. So what went right? Why did no one think the same format was boring? Content! We all enjoyed the weekend because of the content - what was done within the given format (which brings me to an important lesson I learned when I was dancing down an isle in a play in 5th grade and fell down then got back up - life is almost always what we make it. We can stay down or we can get back up). There were two key components to the content of our weekend:
- Effort (that we put in)
- Spirit (of God that moved)
This seems consistent with what I know of Jesus and his call for us to follow him. We must put forth effort - think Jesus staying up all night to pray. Think Jesus inviting us to give up everything to follow him. Think disciples making ongoing errors in thinking and behavior and flat-out disobedience yet their willingness to keep following a man who appeared to most to be crazy. All these things took effort.
Now, think miracles. Think belief inspiring events. Think teacher, who though he is part of a different realm, agrees to work within the format of this realm (human body, normal methods of teaching which included having a handful of students that followed him around and learned from him and whom he mentored). Think the unbelievable (for most people) story of the Christ. All this is Spirit of God stuff.
And that's how the weekend was. There was effort. There was spirit of God. What a great combo. And to think that Creator of Heaven and Earth would allow us the opportunity to put forth effort to shape our future (this would be a boring place if what we couldn't impact happenings). And how equally great that this creator would give us authority to invite Spirit and sometimes send Spirit even when we don't extend the invite, simply because we need it or because Creator wanted to (how boring a place this would be if the creator of it didn't make anything happen... just left us alone).
What's the point? I'm not completely sure. I know we have choices about our format (though we can't easily create a different place than earth to live on, we can choose to live in a house, shed, boat or street). And, within the formats we choose, we can choose a whole bunch more things. We can choose to put forth effort and invite God's spirit to join us. We can choose to love our family or hate them. We can choose to seek our hearts desires or someone else's desire for us. We can choose to be brave or cowardly. While there are prices to be paid for all of our choices, we have the choice! I suppose for me, the point, or question I keep asking is, how will I make the best choices?
The answer I've come to is around this person and living spirit of Jesus. I believe that he will show me a way forward, through the formats and content of my life. I believe that though I may pay a high cost to join him, it's a price worth paying. I believe he will lead me to the peace I want. To the love I seek. To the acceptance I long for.
Join me in taking the opportunity of Christmas to offer thanks and gratitude for Jesus' leadership in life and in the Kingdom. Join me in looking for a way to create content on the 25th or the 26th or any time really, that is the content of Good News. Like God, we are creators.
I pray you will glimpse this awkward man, Jesus and especially the continuation of his Spirit. Merry Christmas and happy creating!