1.25.2010

Blinded by the light

Acts: 22:3-16
‘While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered, “Who are you, Lord?” Then he said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.”
Last night at Kairos we were talking about how hard it is to pay attention to what the Spirit is doing in and around us. Some of us said that we know we're supposed to trust in what God will provide -- but we don't do it. Others noted that it's hard to be in the moment, to see that what and who is in front of us is what God is calling us to attend to. For some of us its hard to let go of what we think and what we want in order to let the Spirit be channeled through us.

It's comforting to realize that it took special effort for Christ to get the attention of a spiritual giant like Saul -- someone who was well versed in his faith before his encounter with Jesus, well educated at the feet of Gamaliel, and acting on what he believed to be right. Jesus had to blind him and literally stop him in his tracks.

For Saul/Paul, the conversion was swift an immediate. He was heading whole-heartedly in a direction, and after his experience of Jesus he moved just as energetically in a different direction.

For me, and for many people I've talked to, conversion is a process that happens over time, that moves forward then lurches backwards. Yet its no less real for its inconsistency. Jesus keeps coming to me, shining light on reality and grabbing my attention, urging me on when I am heading in the right direction and pointing out when a course correction is needed.

Richard Rohr offers some helpful thoughts on how individual and how challenging this process is:

Every person has to come to the God experience on their own. Conversion is a foundational change in life position, perspective, and finally, one’s very identity. After the transformation God is not out there any more. You don’t look at God as a separate identity; you look out from God who lives in you and through you and with you. That is a major shift, probably the most major shift possible for humans.

Like Paul, a converted person becomes convinced that they are participating in something bigger than themselves. After conversion you know you are being used, you know you are being led, and above all you realize your life is not all about you! You are about life! It is happening inside of you and all God needs is your “yes” and your participation. It is likely the hardest yes you will ever utter, because your years of habit will all shout “not possible,” “not me,” and “not worthy.”

Or, as we realized from our exploration of Matthew 5 and 6 last night, Jesus isn't calling us to do things differently. He is calling us to be different.

Dunbar's limit

Dunbar's number says our brain maxes out at 150 relationships. This is also a size barrier for many faith communities. (And Mashable notes that it applies to Facebook as well!) Yet I wonder if we don't misapply this principle to communities. If our kingdom networks are more than "church," our 150 includes not just the size of the faith community but our families, our co-workers, our neighbors, people we serve and serve with in the larger world. Could it be that as communities approach the Dunbar number in some aspect -- the raw number nears 150 or the number of relationships that a ministry leader has to manage nears it -- attention and energy gets more focused internally, on the relationships we have to maintain in the church? Might a smaller community be a better target, so there is margin for the people and leaders to extend their networks out into the rest of the world and maintain real connections?