Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unwrapping the Gift of Restlessness

I'm working on a quick review of the book Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline. The gist of the book is that most of us, especially the young, are at some point given a Gift of Restlessness ("God's call to leave everything") in order to seek out experiences of initiation - to leave behind the known and comfortable, go somewhere new, and wrestle with issues about identity, purpose, and meaning.

The author advocates seeking out encouraging such physical-spiritual pilgrimages, and tells hundreds of stories of people who saw their lives turned upside down (for the better) because of them.

Maybe it's a sign of my middle-agedness or lack of an adventurous soul, but I'm questioning some of the basic ideas he presents. I think I can give it a positive review but with reservations. I agree that we grow more from experiences, especially those that take us into new situations, than from sitting somewhere in a classroom and being taught. I know from personal experience what great things can come from facing the challenges and ambiguity of navigating a different culture. I'd certainly say that many of life's greatest lessons require dying to self, experiencing pain, and walking with others through suffering and loss. But to what extent should we advocate actively seeking out such things, along with adventure and danger, versus responding with courage when God calls or brings them to us? I think Seth overstates his case with his claim that everyone needs to do this, that the best way to grow is to get up and leave all you know.

Hmmm... I need to ponder this more.

A good friend of mine just told me of a recent traumatic experience she had attending a training that  required participants to stay in a sleazy hotel infested with bedbugs and located in a neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution - apparently to simulate conditions in which typical participants may find themselves down the road (though I don't think that assumption is accurate).

If your goal is to have people internalize a message and learn a skill, I think you should do your best to make sure that the emotional impact of those things exceeds the emotional impact of the travel, living conditions, etc. - since those things are not the point. Yes, God may want to use that kind of hardship to get through to someone but I'm not sure we should be bringing such things on ourselves or engineering them for someone else.

Well. Here's what the author of Kingdom Journeys says to look for in a mission/travel pilgrimage, a "Kingdom Journey." How many of these items would be on your list? Should they be? Brace yourself, my non-Christian friends, 'cause this is going to make us look like a cult.

In looking at a program, the author says, be sure to ask questions like these:

  • Will the program force me to abandon my comfort zones?
  • Will I be gone long enough for abandonment to sink in?
  • Will I have a coach who will push me to leave and separate from the people and activities that have defined me at home?
  • Will I have a community that will encourage me on my journey?
  • Will I be challenged by other cultures and different ways of living?
  • Will I receive feedback about what I need to leave?

  • Does the program encourage brokenness?
  • Will I have a coach who will push me to embrace my pain and not give up?
  • Will the journey bring me to those with huge needs: the poor, the sick, the oppressed, and the hungry?
  • Will I be able to use my brokenness to help others?
  • Will I have to surrender my rights and expectations?
  • Will it emphasize getting over my needs to serve other people's needs?

  • Will I be required to depend on God for food, shelter, or money?
  • What basic necessities will I have to struggle for?
  • In what ways have past participants seen their faith in God grow?
  • How will I be forced to grow in my trust of God?

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