Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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When God Is Hard to See

Note from Tyler: This is a continuation from previous posts inspired by Ronald Rolheiser’s book Sacred Fire. Be sure to check out parts ONE (on pride) and TWO (on the temptation of a 2nd honeymoon) along with this one. We’ll finish this short series next week. 

Previously we explored two pitfalls of what Rolheiser describes as the mature stage of discipleship. Now we turn our attention to the difficulty this stage of life presents over and over. 

The last stretch of months have been the most trying of my life as a pastor. Granted, I haven’t been a pastor for decades-long, so I have no doubt more trials and difficulties surpassing these are ahead, but for now these have been extraordinarily difficult. For the sake of those involved, I won’t be sharing specifics, only that for me personally there has been a sense of loss, betrayal, compromised trust, and emptiness.

These prevailing feelings come in waves, knocking me back at seemingly random moments in the aftermath. I have spent the months since these difficult situations hit me (and my family) head on trying to figure out what possible good will come from them. Taking time to write and publish this is an example of my ongoing search for meaning and purpose in the midst of what feels like several hardships. Throughout these ordeals, God has felt further away, not closer.

On the road to Emmaus, two disciples find themselves on a journey away from Jerusalem, filled with the disillusionment born out of their overwhelming sense of letdown and loss. Jesus approaches them, veiling his face, asks a few questions, and then tells the story of the Bible and Christ’s fulfillment within it. In response they ask of one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Previously these disciples could only consider that God was dead, crucified. But, even without seeing His face, Jesus kindled the possibility that God may still be at work. This small spark grew into a fierce fire that would overturn their world in the weeks and years to come.

No question, the 2nd stage of life, filled with commitments and responsibilities, also brings an inevitable sense of loss. Whether it’s the loss of a dream or being dragged through the unending tasks to fulfill, discouragement becomes a constant enemy and temptation to fight off. Rolheiser targets this feeling in saying, “In the discouragement that ensues we will be tempted to walk away from our faith, our church, our hope, our Christ, and our God, toward some place of consolation” (103).

Where is God when we’re stuck in the middle of disillusionment?

Here’s Rolheiser’s encouragement:

“Deeper maturity and a more faithful discipleship are found on the road to Emmaus, when discouraged, in darkness, and tempted, we let our imaginations be restructured by a deeper vision of what God, Christ, and church mean” (105).

The 2nd stage of discipleship is ripe for opportunity and impact, yet it also presents the same chance to give up, to walk away. In these moments what is needed is a deeper vision of the way God can be at work. This is what Jesus provided the disciples on the road to Emmaus, all while never showing His face. His presence alone presented that yes, even in the face of incredible disillusionment, God can still be at work far beyond the ways we can see or even imagine.

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The Honeymoon Temptation

This post is a continuation of a series of posts built on Ron Rolheiser’s book Sacred Fire, which focuses on what he describes as the 2nd or mature stage of discipleship with Jesus, often entered into during the ages of 25 to 45 or so.

Read PART ONE.

Today we’ll look at another pitfall in this 2nd stage of discipleship following last week’s look at pride and faux humility.

Often what delivers you into the stage of mature discipleship is the willingness to enter into life-long commitments. These are the years of building a life, often with few breaks. It can often feel like a battle of attrition and endurance. Responsibilities continue to increase.

While much of life’s previous stage is the search and longing for giving and receiving love and commitment, following the honeymoon of this search reaching a culmination can feel like a letdown. Life becomes a grind, or worse, boring.

Initially, these long-term commitments such as marriage, vocation, church community, and friendship carry with them fresh newness, followed by the inevitable letdown. The long-haul reality of these commitments can come across as lifeless compared to the honeymoon period. On this Rolheiser says:

“One of the demons that we must wrestle with after we have made lifelong commitments is the powerful temptation to experience yet another honeymoon. Infidelity in marriage, among other things, is often triggered by this temptation” (70).

I’ve had several month-long (or sometimes longer) battles of apathy following the ending of what I looked back on as a honeymoon period. The job was no longer gratifying enough. The church wasn’t cool enough. The friendships were becoming forced. The butterflies were gone. I was ready for something new, but I knew my commitments were not short-term, I could not give them up. In some ways I felt stuck, in other ways I had an opportunity to embrace this new way of loving.

Of course, honeymoons aren’t bad in and of themselves. Honeymoons, whether literal or figurative, allow us to quickly establish trust and intimacy with others. But often the intense emotions of love are about the emotion itself. The allure of another honeymoon can quickly unravel the long-built commitments that gave life stability and purpose.

Famously, David knows this lesson all too well. He not only chose to stay home from battle, but in his boredom he allowed his eyes to wander. The love he longed for was a rush of blood and a quickening heartbeat, not the covenant he had established with another.

Yes, it’s true, “Honeymoons are stimulating, but we go home from them. Home might bring its security and comforts, but it cannot match the excitement of a honeymoon, especially during some of its most duty-bound seasons” (75).

It seems to me what needs recalibrating is the way we understand love. If love is sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, and butterflies, we’ll make short-term flippant commitments that are ultimately about us, not others. But if love is a commitment, the regularity of giving yourself to another, love can grow and mature over the course of years and decades.

Don’t give in to the 2nd honeymoon temptation, because honeymoons always come home.

READ PART THREE

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Giving Your Life Away

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post several things connected to Ronald Rolheiser’s important book Sacred Fire. I had been told by several it’s an especially helpful book for people in their 30s and 40s, and since I fall into that category I gave it a shot. Turns out my friends were right. With most of my generation either well within this stage or just beginning it, it was a timely read.

sacred fireThe book as a whole is focused on what he describes as the 2nd stage of discipleship to Jesus, or as he calls it more specifically, “mature discipleship.” The defining question of this stage in life and spirituality is simply, how do I give my life away more generously? While the previous stage is focused on things more self-oriented, this 2nd stage is defined by giving your life away toward something.

Rolheiser describes this stage by saying, “The question that drives our lives and our energies needs to be focused beyond ourselves and beyond our own struggle for identity, meaning, and comfort.” Certainly the desire for meaning and purpose will always exist, but now this drive for significance extends beyond your own singular life, to that of others.

With this 2nd stage of discipleship in view, I want to highlight a few aspects specific to this stage from Rolheiser’s work in the book: two pitfalls, the difficulty of the season, and what kind of fuel is needed to keep moving forward.

What gets in the way of being able to give your life away generously? Let’s begin this short series with one of the more obvious pitfalls to the stage of mature discipleship.

Inherent to any stage of life connected to maturity is the willingness to embrace yourself as mature compared to others. At this point we can struggle to relate to and have empathy toward those who are struggling emotionally, morally, or spiritually. Rolheiser says, “Pride in the mature person takes the form of refusing to be small before God and refusing to recognize properly interconnection with others. It is a refusal to accept our own poverty” (pg. 84).

The temptation is to distance yourself from those who don’t match your level of maturity, missing out on the fact that where you’ve arrived in life is through the grace of God, not of your own doing. You could not arrive at your current state without the influence of both those who are more and less mature than you now. Convincing yourself of approaching godliness in isolation is pride. But the temptation toward pride goes beyond just a comparison to others or isolation from others.

One of the benefits of being at this mature stage of life is that you recognize pride as a negative in your life. You try to squelch out the thoughts or desires that prop yourself above others. Though you may struggle to truly master avoiding the sin of pride, the battle is not over.

By this 2nd stage of life we have often mastered how to NOT come across as prideful, to instead put out a faux humility. We’ll embrace being last, but only as a tactic for ultimately gaining recognition and admiration down the line. In one instance, pride is overconfidence in what you have accomplished for yourself, but pride can also show itself through a passivity so as to come across as humble.

What I have found is that by embracing this 2nd stage of life as one to give your away, the battle of sticking with a more others-centered outlook on life helps push you away from arrogance toward humility. You can’t survive in this stage through image management or by isolating yourself.

READ PART TWO HERE

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Beyond Polarization and Division

It’s all too easy to navigate life with others with an “Us Vs. Them” mentality. We are quick to judge and divide based on race, religion, politics, and much more. Using the ministry of Jesus as his framework, Dan White Jr. teaches about the disruptive power of giving affection to those on the other side of the aisle.

Dan White Jr. is a pastor and church planter from Syracuse, New York whose ministry emphasizes building bridges instead of living into the polarization of our society. His personal experience, coupled with his study of the Bible provides ample opportunity for you to be challenged to love those who are unlike you.

Listen to the full episode below:

You can also find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Google Podcasts || Overcast

Links From the Episode

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About Called Out

Called Out is a show helping the church move from the reality of its brokenness toward the healing power of Christ.

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Redeeming Wanderlust

Rather than a life of Instagram worthy wanderlust, becoming a follower of Jesus is a humble embrace of a pilgrim path. On this episode Michelle Van Loon walks through what it looks like to follow Jesus while maintaining a status of an exiled wanderer in the world.

Michelle is a wonderful writer and storyteller with helpful theological insights on how our restlessness can lead us closer to Jesus.

Listen to the full episode below:

You can also find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Google Podcasts || Overcast

Links From the Episode

About Called Out
Called Out is a show helping the church move from the reality of its brokenness toward the healing power of Christ.

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When is Enough, Too Much?

When is enough, too much? Are our goals of accumulation helpful or hurting? Rather than aiding our happiness, our pursuit of more has left many exhausted, isolated, and broken. In this episode, Chris Nye helps us find a better way.

Chris Nye is a pastor and writer living in the Silicon Valley of Northern California. His daily commute from the valley into the city of San Francisco inspired him to consider whether the goal of accumulation is a helpful one.

Listen to the full episode below:

You can also find this episode anywhere you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Spotify || Google Podcasts || Overcast

Or you can download the full episode here. 

Links from the Episode

About Called Out

Called Out is a show helping the church move from the reality of its brokenness toward the healing power of Christ.

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