death of self.

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 “Independence is a value of our culture, but it is not a gospel value. Jesus lived in community and was part of a village culture. The Scriptures teach us to value interdependence and community more highly than independence, and tell us that we are to lose our lives if we want to find them. Forming our lives around something other than our desires, jobs, and goals is radically countercultural. The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident. We are wealthy and lonely.”

-Shane Claiborne & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgove | Common Prayer: Pocket Edition

This past Fall, I read this write-up (above) for the month of November from Common Prayer: Pocket Edition. It was undoubtedly a providentially perfect timing reading for where we were at in life. If you are anything like me, “ouch” was the first word that came out of my mouth when reading this statement. Those of us who live in the places dominated by Western society live in a world that consumes itself with exactly that: self. And unfortunately, it has become so instinctively natural it often goes unrecognized in our lives. The other day I was in conversation with a person I had just met. About half way through our dialogue I realized it much more resembled a monologue—he talked and I listened. I eventually became internally irked at the fact that this person could be so consumed with talking about his own life and his own experiences and not care to ask even one thing about my life. What nerve he had to be so selfishly enthralled to tell of himself and never even take one single opportunity to ask about me.

 The more I reflected on the “conversation” that evening and even in this very moment, the more I must ask myself, “Who really was the selfish one?” As much as I would like to convince myself that my frustration and annoyance was fueled out of this man’s (seemingly) lack of selflessness, I realize it had little to do with his condition and much to do with my condition. The reason I was irritated was that I was being deprived. I was not getting the attention deserved. Surely I had just as important things to say as he did. How selfish of…me? Ouch.

So when I read a statement like the one quoted to begin this post, rarely am I able to respond with anything but “ouch.” And as hard as it often is to recognize my own selfish sin, I know the process cannot just end there. By His grace, I have to be moved to a prayer of forgiveness and plead for realignment with the way of Christ. The Way that is far too concerned with the present life and eternal destiny of this God-created being to consider something as trivial as the possibility that this individual is selfishly dominating the conversation. We live in a world and society dominated by self; no doubt about it. But as followers of Christ we live in a world and society where our Savior, Creator and King of heaven and earth is constantly calling us to pray and orient our lives in ways that invite the coming of His Kingdom and the doing of His will on earth as it is in heaven [Mt. 6:10]. No, not perfectly (at least not yet [Rev. 21]) but surely glimpses and imperfect reflections of what it will be when all is made new. The call and direction to pray and live in a manner that invites the Kingdom life into the present world is not an abstract ideal to passively consider but the concrete reality of God’s redemptive purpose that requires full participation of His followers.

We would be crazy to think that what will be in the new heaven and new earth is a utopian representation of current western society: individuals having exactly what we want and think we need. But at the core of each and every human being—human beings created in the very image of God—none of us want, truly want, what our world is offering as the substitute for fulfillment in Christ and His Body. The fulfillment Jesus promised and continues to promise until the end of time takes the American dream’s promise to the “right of life, liberty and happiness” (a dream described by dictionary.com as, “a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.”) and puts into its rightful perspective: that this very perspective has no place in the kingdom of Christ. The fraudulent guarantee to the right of one’s own life, liberty and happiness are three very things that Christ is sure to remind us that we have no right to whatsoever. It is in the surrendering of any and all counterfeit belief that we have some sort of right to our own life, liberty and happiness when Christ can then begin His work in our own lives and—in His great compassion—through us, also in the lives of others [Lk. 9:23; Jn. 12:24; Rm. 12:1-2; Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 6:19-20]. It is in dying that we find life.

So here is how the excerpt I began with continues:

“But God invites us into a common life with others. Rather than build our lives around the individualistic dream of a house with a white picket fence, we build our lives around God’s vision for community. We dream of a holy village in the middle of the urban desert, with a little cluster of row homes sprinkled about and a neighborhood where folks are committed to God and to each other…”

And then:

“Shaping a life together sometimes begins simple by creating a space for community.”

It was in the very moment of reading these words for the first time back in November, where God’s redemptive work here in Lawrence (that He has so generously allowed us to take part in) took on a clarity we had been praying and longing for. What might it look like if God’s kingdom came here on earth to this building, this property and in this neighborhood and its community? How might we use this space as just another way to join God in His mission of creating community where “folks are committed to God and to each other?”

Whoa, this changed everything. The only question that mattered now was, “How do we most effectively use this property to love others in Christ’s name?” Among many dreams and visions that we believe the Lord has laid upon our hearts for how He might use this property for the advancing of His Kingdom here on earth, one specific dream quickly (and entirely unexpectedly) became a no-brainer. We were to live in this space. 

Yes, you read that right…live there. While meeting a neighbor of the building, just a few days after moving to Lawrence, we were standing outside of the building and he was asked what would come of it or how it would be used moving forward. I did one of my terrible explanations and somewhere in the midst of my fumbling and stumbling, he said something that has always stuck in my mind since. He said, “Well, a building’s no good if there aren’t any people in it.” I certainly agreed with him then and certainly agree with him now, I just didn’t ever foresee us living there as the way this would initially take place. What once seemed like a crazy idea is now a happening reality that we have absolutely zero doubt about. There is so much more backstory of God’s providence and direction to how we got from point A (never considering the idea of living there) to point B (absolutely convinced we are to live there), but probably too much for this post. 

It you have read any of the posts preceding this one and including this one, surely it could go without being said that we have a burning desire to live and share life together with others in the most authentic of ways, prayerfully and intentionally aiming to draw one another towards a deeper commitment to life in Christ. We are convinced that living in this space—which we pray will be one of many spaces for community in Christ to take place—is a critical initial step in the journey. Not only is it critical, but it is taking and is going to continue to take a lot of work…and a lot of help! There are a near infinite amount of ways to partner with us in this journey if you feel Christ drawing you towards it, and we humbly are confessing our inability to do it alone. So I have a question for you. Will you consider helping us?

I recently sent out a letter that the EFC-MAYM helped to spread around. It describes our desire to partner with other individuals, communities, church bodies, etc. and how we can begin to take practical steps towards this happening. I am going to attach a link to the letter in this post so you can read. In this letter, you will find our contact information so we can get in touch and hopefully see one another very soon.

Here is the letter: Letter of Introduction (Friends of Lawrence)

I am going to include another link to a document that I think could be a beneficial read. The path the Lord is taking us down often resembles more than anything that of Christian monasticism, specifically what is referred to as “New Monasticism.” The document I am including a link to is titled “Twelve Marks of New Monasticism.” Not only does it do a wonderful job effectively summarizing what New Monasticism is, but it also describes much of what our hearts long to see happen here in Lawrence.

Here it is:  Twelve Marks of New Monasticism

That is all for now. More to come soon. Until then,

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness and protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you…

(Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

– Jeremiah

3 thoughts on “death of self.

  1. And so the story continues to unfold, one page at a time, each new addition offering greater depth and breadth to the larger narrative. This particular entry reminds me of one of the very first words that the Lord gave to us during our initial visit to Lawrence with the yearly meeting elders in May 2014, nearly two years ago to the day:

    “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24-25)

    Press on, the best is yet to come!

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  2. P.S. Couldn’t help but think of you and your most recent blog post when I read this prayer from Henri Nouwen’s A Cry for Mercy:

    “Let me die to the desire to choose my own way and select my own cross. You do not want to make me a hero but a servant who loves you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your writings are so much more than just words on paper. Thank you for sharing how God is using the Holy Spirit to guide your family though this journey. When I visit with you and Wendy it is blessing to see your passion for the community and the people of Lawrence . Abigail asked me if I knew why she lived in Lawrence and I of course asked why… her innocent reply was ” to tell people about Jesus ” That tells it all. Thank you for the in depth writings, I cling to your words and learn so much with every post. Thank you !
    Patty

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