Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Unique Person, Unique Path

While it's true that we share things in common, we are each so radically different from each other... You know? Some of us are louder vs. quieter, cooler vs. dorkier, impulsive vs. planning, changing vs. stability, thinkers vs. feelers, introverted vs. extroverted, big picture vs. small steps, dreamers vs. organizers, artistic vs. engineering, etc. We learn differently, emotionally recharge differently, relate differently, think differently, feel differently, and on and on.

With all these differences, is it really that shocking that we approach worship in ways that are both similar and very different from each other? Of course we affirm that every Christian needs to "receive the Word implanted" (James 1:21) to grow in their relationship with Christ. But we each read differently! We affirm that everyone needs to pray, but we each pray differently. We acknowledge that we each need to engage God in theocentric worship, but our personal histories and contexts make our stylistic approach to worship unique as well.

So how do you read your Bible? How do you pray? How do you worship? How do you navigate the river of your design successfully? It will surely have some universal elements to it... but it must also be unique so that your whole person, with all it's peculiarities and inter-relationships, can connect with what you're doing.

My "river" runs wide and fast with lots of rapids, and waterfalls, and turns. Sometimes my river splits into several different rivers, which then collide back together again. I'm full of passion, emotion, energy, and feeling; and it leaks out - no matter how hard I try to be "normal." So how do I navigate my river? The chart for someone with a less turbulent river (like a calculating thinker with emotions experienced less powerfully) will probably lack some relevance to my own experience. What do I do with all this white-water?

I remember when I used to volunteer in the Scottsdale Bible Church youth group with a bunch of friends. After youth meetings, Tiwa, Juice, Randy, Aaron, Eric, Ivy, Karis, Matt - different people at different times - would gather to rock out with the aid of the church's thousands of watts of shredding sound-system power (thank you Dave Erikson). We would make music and make noise and laugh and create... and I found a good place to channel my emotional class-4 rapids. Now that I'm in Chicago, I don't have that kind of outlet (no equipment and no musically passionate friends); and I miss it.

I'll be looking for something like that to throw my person into in the near future because I recognize that I cannot and do not want to change the shape or current of the river that God created in me and for me... I only want to embrace it and navigate it wisely in the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.

I wonder if some of you have felt that parts of your "river" have no place to go? Do you ever feel that some aspects of your makeup create more obstacles than opportunities? Maybe you haven't yet found a good way to channel it, navigate it... even ride it. It's a shame that so many people in the world and the body of faith have judged parts of themselves (other than sin) as less-than-admirable and things to be overcome through "self-control." That spiritual buzzword has been used for centuries to justify the deprecation of what God intentionally created in people. Are you aware of your river? Do you affirm it or fight it? Do you successfully "shoot the rapids" or have the rapids swallowed you because you didn't know what to do with them? Are you drowning, suffocating, and sinking or are you having the time of your life on the river God made you to ride?

We often judge our inner makeup by what our contexts (ministry, society, culture, family, etc.) tell us we should be. BUT... if we embrace our design and the One who created it, we are guaranteed that God will (in the right time) give us a ministry / church context - out of which we will experience new culture, family, etc. - that fits us. Did you catch that? God will build and prepare a context for our design! (Hey... He created one from scratch for Adam in Genesis 2:7-15.) I hope that's liberating. You don't have to change your design or forsake your "river" ... only seek wisdom in understanding it so you can navigate it in a way that honors God and fulfills your created desires.

You are a unique person by design. So what does your unique path look like?


Brian said...

I had the blessing of meeting up with an old mentor and friend this past week in Michigan who always knew how to throw out a challenge. Lately, for a bunch of different reasons, my church ministry has been chopped up, moved around, and every other phrase that can describe putting me back on my heels and reassessing where I fit in the church family. He told me (with explanation to follow) that “the needs of ***** Chuch should not necessarily be interpreted as God’s individual calling for my ministry”. In other words, just because a church needs somebody for XYZ role, I shouldn’t be automatically concluding that God has built me for that exact role. He challenged me to step outside that comfort zone of my ministry domain of the past 4 years and at least be willing to seek other ministry opportunities, even if they lie outside my (now) home church. To anybody reading this while in seminary, he said our time in school is the chance to explore and experiment. Once we are pastors, we don’t get that chance in the same way. I’m not exactly sure what this is meant to encourage, other than to say our God is bigger than any box we can put Him in and that our ministry (or our “river” as John put it) shouldn’t be arbitrarily limited.

ivy said...

In the past the river has had me all wound up inside, like a rip current. It's true, sometimes i don't know which way to turn to reach the surface and catch a breath. i can always feel God's presence, something which i've learned not to take for granted! He totally sustains me. So i know i'm in the river, but I haven't entirely figured out who He has made me to be and where we're headed. Don't get me wrong, if it's solely to be Scott's wife, and this growing baby's mother, i would be content. But my heart says there is much more.
I slowed myself down, grasping every rock i could to stop and look around by trying to please everyone. This is the biggest freedom i've felt in marriage, being encouraged to be me. now i often compare myself to a young child who is still being introduced to the personality i've been given. one thing i can get a handle on... i am an all or nothing girl, always have been, always will be. you believe or you don't. you love or you don't. you do or you don't even try. this has granted me the stubborn certificate. I'm realizing it's okay to accept it. because i either am or i'm not. hot or cold!! or spit me out! what i have to change is loving people as opposed to hating mediocrity.
i look forward to the day that i can see the mouth of the river and what body of water it leads to. What great joy! But my lesson for now is to enjoy the water, the ride, the current, and all the turns that mold me.

Al said...

That's awesome Ivy!
What a great insight... I wish we lived closer!