For those of you that don’t know, last August my family made the arduous journey across several states, moving from California to Indiana to take a pastoral position. It didn’t help that we arrived only to experience a new ice age with one of the coldest winters on record. So, with that in mind, last week I struck up a conversation with a college student in town at the local bike shop, who, when I told him that we recently moved from California to Indiana, asked me, “Why would you move from California?” If I had a dollar for everyone who has asked me that question, I would have quite a stash to date. Why does anyone in their right mind move from California to Indiana?
I know that people mean well when they ask but I’m sure a move from California to Indiana feels counterintuitive to them. In fact, a move from a very large church in a large city to a smaller church in a smaller city doesn’t seem like the path a person is supposed to take. There really is something tugging at us in our culture that considers a move like this a bit head-scratching. Why would anyone in their right mind do that?
As I have thought about it, these moments of “counterintuitive” living are par for the course for the follower of Christ. Noah’s invitation from God build an ark, Abram’s invitation from God to leave the comfort of Ur behind to go, uhh… somewhere, Moses’ invitation from God to go back to a place where he would be God’s spokesperson on behalf of his people, the disciples’ invitation to leave behind what was familiar to follow an itinerate rabbi.
While life can’t be lived constantly like this there do seem to be distinct moments where God’s invitation to follow Him invites a sort of “holy chaos” into our lives to keep us from settling into comfort. It’s not that comfort is necessarily evil. It’s just that comfort can dull our ability to actually hear God amidst the white noise of “life”. It does this by numbing our hearts and minds in a way that makes spiritual hearing, seeing, and receiving very difficult. When we embrace these chaotic moments and move into the unknown it’s our declaration to God that we are “all in”, but, honestly, it will look a bit puzzling to some and the feel of it is counterintuitive.
Are there regular occurrences in your life where you are taken out of your comfort zone and the only person you can lean heavily on is God? Have there been times in your life (maybe now) when to follow God will mean deciding to do something that is so out of the box that people and friends might not fully “get”? If a synonym for faith is risk, while certainly faith is not acting impulsively, brashly, or irrationally (blindly), is your life with God characterized by avoiding risk? If it’s becoming obviously clear that you trust in the props you have constructed to keep your life going, will you consider “outside the box” that some of your friends and family might not understand?
When the gospel is announced, it is the declaration that Jesus has brought with Him a new kingdom, a new administration, a new rule and reign. But this Kingdom comes in ways that seem almost backwards to people. Richard Hayes, a theologian at Duke University summarized the book of Mark like this, “God’s invasion of the world has brought about an inversion. All through the book of Mark, God reverses the position of insiders and outsiders, those in positions of authority and privilege reject Jesus. But the people of lower despised position in the first century of Jewish culture received the gospel gladly.” Who is it really that is well off? Those who recognize that they have nothing – the people the world least suspects. Who really is “up” in the Kingdom? Those who are humble. Who really is rich? Those who are desperate and needy. Who is really powerful? The weak. Who is it that is recognized? The one who doesn’t prop themselves up by seeking people’s approval.
God often takes us to the end of our own resources to wake us up to reality – that we can’t construct life without Him and His Kingdom comes in ways that often confound people because it’s upside down. I suspect that for many people they implicitly see salvation solely in terms of going to heaven. It’s not that they actually say this but you can tell by their life. Actually salvation (being born again) is the entry point where a person enters into a great story, God’s story and His life, where one’s life is lived fully when one embraces the God-given opportunities to live upside down. It’s confusing to some, for those whom the sense of holy chaos bothers them because they want clarify in their lives. But the way that he invites us to live is often the opposite of what most want. As it turns out the “Indianas” of our lives are exactly where we need to be.