Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Right Reason

I was at a writer’s conference, carrying with me my selection of a work in progress like hundreds of others, scheduled for a meeting with both an editor and an agent. Like most of the people there, when not in a general session or a seminar, I spent a lot of time milling about, looking at the writers’ books for sale, talking to a few people, trying to understand what I was even doing there.

At one of the luncheons, a woman sat next to me, her arms full of books, papers, notebooks, purse, briefcase, and water bottle. She smiled expansively at the rest of us at the table and announced, “I am a writer.” Loudly. Loud enough so that the people at the next table turned their heads.

She went on to tell us, knowing we were all phenomenally interested, that she was in her positive affirmation mode. Declaring herself to be a writer meant, as night followed day, that she was one. And she went on to explain what that meant.

“One day,” she said, “I will be on that dais, getting ready to make the luncheon address. I will be signing books during the meet-the-authors sessions. My books will be on the best-seller lists. I will be mobbed by people asking for advice and the name of my agent, and manuscripts thrust in my face to read.” She smiled. “I will not just be a writer; I will be an author” (emphasis in the original). She looked around, a smug smile on her face. “And each of you knows that’s what you want, too.”

The rest of us at the table suddenly discovered reasons why we had to be somewhere else. And if we had to choose between two good seminars scheduled at the same time, the decision would be easy once we saw which one she had chosen.

What struck me about her words wasn’t her brazenness. It was that she didn’t want to become a writer, not really. What she instead wanted was the experience of becoming a writer. The difference was, and is, huge. One implies work; the other implies adulation. One implies a love for others; the other implies a love for self.

In  Forgotten God: The Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan asks a rather pointed question about Christians’ desire to be “filled with the Spirit.” And that question is, “Do I want to lead or be led by the Spirit?”

It’s not unlike “do I want to write or have the experience of being a writer?”

Chan asks the question rather bluntly because there’s no dancing around it; this isn’t the time to be polite. Your faith is either all about you, or it’s not. How you live your faith is either all about you, or it’s not. How you pray is either all about you, or it’s not.

Do I want to lead or be led by the Spirit?

That question requires a deep pondering, a prayerful searching of the soul. The answer isn’t as automatic as we like to think it is, or hope it is.

Because if there’s one thing that’s true about the Christian faith, it’s that it’s not about the person holding that faith. It never was and it never will be. To be a Christian is to be other-directed, in the same way Jesus was other-directed. For him, and for many of us over the centuries, it meant being other-directed to the death.

Jesus didn’t die to save himself.

That’s why Francis Chan asks that question about the Spirit.

Do I want to lead or be led by the Spirit?

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading Forgotten God. To see more posts on this chapter, “Why Do You Want Him,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact.

Photograph by Marina Shemesh via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


kchripczuk said...

The other day I wrote, "Do not dabble with God or Jesus if you are not interested in an exquisitely painful resurrection," but I kept it to myself because it goes against so much of what is piped through the loud-speakers of Christianity. No, I do not (always) want to be led by the spirit, but I will follow.

Great storytelling, Glynn. I've been enjoying your words on Chan's book, almost I am persuaded to read it.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

I really loved this analogy, Glynn, because there IS a huge chasm between one claiming to be a writer and one who is willing to put in the work (hard work, we know!)to actually become that author.
And, you've given us much to prayerfully ponder in whether we are leading or allowing the Spirit to lead us.

jasonS said...

It is such an important question. I think, like you said, we want to answer it a certain way, but it takes some deeper reflection. It's so hard to surrender your own will and not seek your own glory, but if we are being conformed to the image of Jesus, that's got to happen. And it only happens by the Holy Spirit. Thanks so much, Glynn,