Thursday, December 27, 2007

missions and shadow missions

I was finishing up the book When the Game is over it All Goes Back in the Box by John Ortberg tonight, and a couple of the chapters I read brought me back to something he had spoken about this past summer at Leadership Summit. He talked about the hwole idea that we all have a mission in life, but we all also have shadow mission that distracts us from what we are really called to do in life.

Ortberg talks about how our mission in life is that thing that drives us to do something. Something in the world that causes us to do whatever we can to fix the situations. Something that we can't just leave alone and ignore. Frederick Buechner puts it this way: "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." Meaning that our mission is something that we know that we need to do and it is something that the world needs to have done.

At one point in his talking about our mission, Ortberg says the following:
If you want a sense of mission to burn brightly in you, spend some time feeding your divine discontent. Usually we try to avoid unpleasantness, but if you have a sense that your mission involves helping the poor, spend time around those in poverty. Allow your emotions to become deeply engaged, and carry with you that fire that things must change.
We need to allow those things that cause us to want to do something to change things to be a part of our lives. It won't always be fun, but by doing this we can live a life that has a purpose that goes beyond making money.

Ortberg also talks about how we have a shadow mission in our lives as well. He describes the shadow mission this way:
Just as we all have a mission - a way of sontributing the God's kingdom that we were designed and gofted for - we also have what might be called a shadow mission. My shadow mission is what I will do with my life if I drift on autopilot. It consists of activities toward which I will gravitate if I allow my natural temptations and selfishness to take over.
When we begin to ignore the mission that God has given us - the divine discontent with the way things are in the world, that is when we get distracted by our shadow mission. Our shadow mission can be seemingly harmless, but it is harmful in that it stops us from doing what we are called to do. Our shadow mission can also be harmful if it draws us into activities that are unhealthy or sangerous.

We all need people in our lives who will call us on it when we begin to get distracted by our shadow mission. People who know us well enough and are comfortable enough with us that they will confront us when we ignore the mission that we have been called for. Often when we get distracted by our shadow mission we won't realize it and we need these people to draw us back to reality.

In the book, Ortberg uses the example of Esther to illustrate this idea. While it may not have looked like it in the beginning, Esther was int he position she was in as queen to be able to help her people - the Israelites - when they needed it. It would have been quite easy for her to get distracted by the fact that she was chosen queen because of her beauty and to just keep on living in the lap of luxury with beauty treatments and riches. But, when the situation arose for her to act, and she was hesistant to do so, she also had someone in her life who was willing to call her on it - willing to keep her from getting distracted by her shadow mission and keep her focused on the mission she now had before her.

All of this has really gotten me thinking about my own life . . . and I hope it will get you thinking about yours.
What is my mission? What it that one that one thing that I cannot leave as it is? What is it that drives me to act?
What is my shadow mission? If I just start going through life on autopilot, what is it that I will tend to do? What will I fill my time with when I just go through life without any thought as to what I am called to do?
Who are the people in my life who will call me on it when I get distracted by my shadow mission? Who knows me well enough to help me identify what God is calling me to do? Who loves me enough to challenge me when I shrink back from what God has called me to do?
My answers to those questions are not coming easily. I have been thinking about them for a while tonight already, and I still don't have all the answers for myself. But I think that they are important for us to ask ourselves.

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