Every good story consists of challenge.
There is uncertainty in every tale.
But don’t think this is a curse of the Fall — it isn’t always. God created the earth, and told Adam to go and cultivate it. Reign over it. Essentially, God created the playground of nature and gave Adam the assignment of reigning over it and exploring it. Although (in its beginnings) free of sin and thus free of death, there was still risk. Adam was a limited creature, after all. He, just like us, was not always aware of what was next. No ocean had yet been sailed, no desert had yet been crossed, and no mountain had yet been climbed. The plane had not been invented, and skydiving was something only God could envision. The first football had not been kicked yet. Heck, sex hadn’t been had yet. To survive in the ocean, Adam would have to learn to swim. To summit a mountain, he would have to learn to climb. To create a flying machine, Adam’s descendants would have to learn the mysteries of engineering, mechanics, and mathematics. To create the first football, imagination would be required. And sex — well, Adam probably figured that out pretty quick.
Every story has with it some level of challenge, mystery, and risk. We understand this in terms of physical journeys and adventures. But the same applies to all other stories. If I ask a girl on a date, I risk her saying no (so far, I’m zero for zero — thanks for asking). If I apply to a college, I risk not being accepted.
The popular idea that risk, discomfort, and the unknown are results of the Fall and/or are not what God intended needs to be thrown out with the expired milk and leftover cheesecake.
Jesus often describes the Kingdom of God by using agricultural terms. Mustard seed. Harvest. Laborers. Trees. Fruit. Thorns.
Now, yes — I believe He used these due to the context of the Jewish culture. However, there is much to learn from His oddball choices to describe the Kingdom of God.
A tree can’t grow without wind or rain. The wind causes it’s roots to dig deeper and take a stronger hold upon it’s foundation. The rain causes the tree to grow and bear more fruit. What seems to be damaging to the tree is actually growing the tree. It might appear to be more convenient for a tree to never experience a thunderstorm, yet it is exactly what the tree needs to grow.
In this age of convenience, I fear we have become a generation who wishes to experience the fruit of having grown and matured without actually experiencing the process of growth and maturity.
With the swipe of my finger, I can decide in an instant whether I am interested in a girl or not — I don’t even have to talk to her. And by the chance that I am interested, I can make the brave move of sliding in her DMs. I don’t even have to make any commitments to a girl. In today’s era, I can reap the physical benefits of a healthy relationship without even entering a healthy relationship. Convenience.
With a quick Google, I can become an expert on every possible topic known to man. Quantum physics? Gandhi’s birthday? Winning team of the Stanley Cup in 2004? I can get the answers in .000342 seconds. Convenience.
As much as I love making life easier, living a life of convenience can be detrimental to the soul. There are no shortcuts to a life with God. There is no “quick fix” to our brokenness. Life was created with seasons — it’s not always summer in the life of the soul.
There is a reason why hard work feels so good, and why cheating our way to a goal feels, well, like cheating. We were made to take part in a story, and you don’t get to just skip chapters in the story. There’s a name for the people who take helicopters to the top of Everest: assholes.
If I want to become a man of God, I must begin today. This is no trivial pursuit. There is no sermon to listen to or book to read that will miraculously create me into a mature man of God. If there was, then sanctification would be easy. Instead, the journey of becoming the man God created me to be is one of ancient paths — like those described in Jeremiah 6:16: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
I must seek God out as Father. He has invited me into His process of initiation. Too many men attempt to do life on their own and “man up.” Jesus, however, invites us into the inconvenient journey of maturity, adventure, and fullness. He offers for us to first stand and look.
What is the life I am searching for? Who are those who have gone before me? With the aid of the Father, I can seek those who have walked the ancient paths of the Lord and walk in the Good Way. There is risk and uncertainty on the path. Heck, His word is a lamp, not a lighthouse. Living by faith is risky. But so is living by my own way.
Make no mistake — a life lived with God is one full of risk, discomfort, trust, and uncertainty. It is a life of initiation and Fatherhood. It is a life of constant molding, tuning, and shaping. Not every trial is from the Father, but the Father can use every trial to mature us into good soil. The question is not whether we want to be good soil; the question is whether or not we are willing to be taken on the inconvenient path of initiation and maturity to become good soil.
Let us never forget that we were born into a war, and that this war is the epic battle for the heart of man. To take our rightful place in this cosmic battle, we must learn to fight. Restoration is our future, and the new earth is our home. But in the mean time, we must allow the good infection of Christ to transform us into soldiers of the Kingdom. As Paul says, this battle is not against flesh and blood. God desires to implement each one of us as soldiers in the Great Conflict — and as every good soldier knows, it takes training and maturation to succeed in combat.
Risk and initiation are weapons of war used against the Enemy to radically change us from children of fear to children of God. Boldness and Confidence only result from risk. To get to where God wants us to be, there is no short cut. There is only the necessary inauguration of Biblical person hood and the journey of maturation.
“Instead of building kingdoms, what would it look like for you to dedicate the next ten years of your life to excavate and build your character and become the kind of person that God can entrust power with?”
— Morgan Snyder