Saturday, March 20, 2010

Intention and the Gates

While running yesterday, I  listened to message entitled Fruit by Rob Bell @ Mars Hill Church out in Grand Rapids It's one of the last messages in their series wrapping up a nine month run on the Sermon on the Mount, which I've been digging as this is something I've dug into a lot over the past few years and it's stretched me in a huge way.   He was covering Matthew 7, and the part that struck me related to this chunk about the wide and narrow gates:
 13-14"Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
Rob goes on to talk about intention in life.  He described this idea of how in life we choose to go with and against crowds of people in a way that reminded me of driving downtown in New York City.  If you've been to NYC, you've seen cars packed like sardines flying down the road.  If you need to make a turn, you really need to be committed to that turn.  Being the are one car that's got to get over across 9 lanes of traffic to turn takes a real commitment to the turn.  It would be way easier to just keeping going straight ahead with the flow of traffic than to go against everyone, cut across the lanes and make the turn.

The message goes on to look at the idea of becoming a person of  intention.  Saying "Yes" to something may also mean saying "No" to thousands of other distractions and temptations that do not line up with the one "Yes".  I know that saying "yes" to working out means saying "no" to extra sleep, "no" to sitting on my butt at the end of a long day.  I'm pretty good at pointing out all of the areas I say "yes" to that are good things, and then being self-righteous, glossing over some of the areas I intentionally say no to.

I've been chewing on this since my run yesterday, and my reading this morning started in the book of James, oddly enough on the same topic.  Guess God's trying to tell me something here... Or that I've already got this figured out and it's all a weird coincidence.
But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. James 1:25
I'm re-reading the book for the millionth time called The Holy Longing which looks at the question "What is Spirituality?". The first chapter talks about Soren Kierkegaard's definition of being a saint as someone who can will the one thing. It looks at Janis Joplin's life - a woman who had this amazing energy, but she willed many things, which eventually led to excess, tiredness and death.The author then contrasts it with Mother Teresa, a woman who had the same kind of amazing energy, but channeled it into God and the poor.  I think "willing the one thing" is all about intention and focus, saying "yes" to the one thing and no to virtually everything else.

The book goes onto talking about one of my biggest struggles - the result of having a completely overextended "one thing":
Most of us are quite like Mother Teresa in that we want to will God and the poor. We do will them. The problem is we will everything else as well. Thus, we want to be a saint, but we also want to feel every sensation experienced by sinners; we want to be innocent and pure, but we also want to be experienced and taste all of life; we want to serve the poor and have a simple lifestyle, but we also want all the comforts of the rich; we want to have the depth afforded by solitude, but we also do not want to miss anything; we want to pray, but we also want to watch television, read, talk to friends, and go out. Small wonder life is often a trying enterprise and we are often tired and pathologically overextended. 

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