When I first read this paragraph from God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church by Brad Roth, my mind leaped to a scenario exactly like Roth described: a community losing its missional bearings and directing its energy into constructing a recreational building.
In the church, we so often favor the concrete work before us rather than the cloud work of moving forward in prayer. No doubt this is why church building projects become popular when congregations lose their bearings. Building projects are a way to transmute adaptive challenges (How do we grow? What’s our calling?) into something tangible, something that can be broken down into a checklist. They’re a way to turn the uncertain cloud into something concrete–literally.
-Brad Roth in God’s Country, page 111
Yet, as I thought about this scenario, a strange feeling swept over me. I couldn’t forget the words “transmute adaptive challenges” and “something tangible, something that can be broken down into a checklist.” I realized that I am tempted to do this, too.
Even though I am not tempted to help with a needless construction project, I have my own way of trying to navigate changes in a way that makes me feel more comfortable. I’ve seen this over and over in my life. When I feel restlessness come on and I begin thinking, “What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? How can I grow spiritually?” I get out the paper and pencil and make myself a list.
(There’s that pesky temptation to make a checklist.)
Moving to a new town, new culture, and new local church has brought great adaptive challenges. I’m not always sure of who I am, what I believe, and where I’m called.
I don’t think it’s wrong to evaluate my life and jot down ideas that God brings to my mind. Will and I love to do this together periodically, and we are often energized by a sharpened sense of purpose. But I can take planning and list-making too far because I don’t like sitting in uncertainty, when perhaps uncertainty is precisely the place in which God wants me to rest for a while.
When I am feeling sure about my life direction, I plunge ahead without much thought to what needs to change within my mind and heart. However, I’m starting to think that the greatest inner growth is nurtured in spots of uncertainty.
Instead of asking, “God, what do you want me to do now?” maybe I should ask, “God, what do you want to teach me now? How do you want to show your grace to me?”
At times, the best way for me to navigate adaptive challenges may be to wait in the cloud of prayerful silence, in the fog of uncertainty, for God to speak.
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:25-26 (ESV)
What challenges are you facing right now?