“When we play god in our lives, [our union with God is lost] (see Col. 3:3). We become autonomous, self-referenced (self-centered) being who have abandoned the center of our true identity in God. We objectify or identify our self apart from God.” (M. Robert Mulholland, The Deeper Journey, p. 28) I call it Christian atheism. While we may say we believe in God, so often our actions as well as our inner passions betray our verbal assertions. We sometimes act as though God is not just silent but He is not even there. I know I do.
Just this morning Jeanni and I were talking about our staff retreat this summer. We covered all sorts of ground from staff relationships to finances and locations. At one point in the conversation I felt panic (I had just come in from riding my bike full of thoughts about another subject entirely). Abruptly, I said, “I’ve got to get moving or I’ll lose my day.” In the following conversation/tense moments, Jeanni begins telling me stuff I did not wish to hear. I knew she was wrong. I did not tell her she was in my way and if it sounded like it, I was certain I did not mean it. At that moment, I did not want to hear how my words effected her intentional or not – I had an agenda.
When I live out of my false self (the flesh, self-interests, etc.) I’m not all that interested in knowing how my words or actions hurt another. I’m committed to my own well-being. Telling me I hurt you opens me to vulnerability I cannot afford (in my false self). “To the extent our false self guides our life, we fear others”, says Mulholland (The Deeper Journey, p. 32). Our false self is constantly threatened in community. This morning I was playing god and was doing everything I could to protect my fragile false self.
When I talk about “more” in community, what I’m wanting and I believe deep down so does every believer, is a community that knows I sometimes act out of unbelief – that I am sometimes a practicing atheist. I take matters into my own hands. I worry about finances, argue with my wife and sometimes even shame my children. What I don’t want is a place where these acts (motivated out of a false self) either go unaddressed or quickly glossed over with Christian platitude. I don’t want to be patronized as though I don’t know it’s wrong to worry, argue and provoke my children. I want truth not a behavioral fix.
Crabb’s Real Church has some helpful categories at this point.
We need to hear resurrection truth, enter story truth and deeply ponder signpost truth.
Resurrection truth tells me there is hope! Don’t give up. God is not only with me, he is for me and in me. Story truth invites me to be real because all will be well someday. “Resurrection truth tells me there’s hope, but story truth tells me what the hope is and anchors me as I’m real about my doubts.” (Crabb, Real Church, p. 99) Sign post truth lets me know there are no formulas so I can be creative.
Am I hungry for truth? Scriptures tell me I am. But what about the says I can’t see it? When I’m lost in protecting my false self and can’t see my way clear to even care about you, who will step past my ugliness and call me into the truth that I am actually a new self, a true self in Christ? When pouring truth into my soul in dark moments, will there be a relaxed assurance in the power of the gospel when I don’t seem to ‘get it’ right away? Or, will there be an impatient urging or convincing me of something I know in my head but am presently denying in my heart? Just because I don’t always act like it, who will believe my false self is actually a lie and so expend some energy looking for the reality of Christ within me – my true self? Will I be drawn into God’s story in ways were I begin to see it relating to my story only long enough for me to be more captivated with Him? In examining the sign posts of truth, will we step into the mystery of knowing God and allow a growing knowing of HIm guide the way we relate and muck through our clunky tense moments with our spouse, children or friends?
“A hunger for truth will lead to a focus on formation,” says Crabb (Real Church, p. 120). The more we long for truth in the three categories I’ve just mentioned, the more, I believe, we will long to look like Jesus. And when we go to our homes after house church, we will notice a growing passion for Jesus as a result of having been together in community.
There’s more to say here. I’ll close for now. Right now I’m just thinking out loud with no real direction to my thoughts. Hopefully this will stimulate more conversation and thought as we get rolling.