“What are you running to?” a colleague had asked me. We had been discussing the reasons for leaving an employer that was downsizing paralleling the downsizing of the military industrial complex after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His question stopped me and made me think through where I was going to even more than where I was going from. That question, and other incentives led me to go to seminary and pursue a career as a pastor.
During subsequent changes in employment I have noticed that each transition involves a push and a pull. A reason to leave and a reason to arrive somewhere else. While pushes, reasons to leave, have initiated and sustained transitions, pulls, reasons to start somewhere else make the transitions worthwhile to complete.
While career changes had taught me to recognize the push and pull of transitions, force analyses also apply to organizational changes.
Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) illustrates a divine push to change from his old life. Yet it was the ministry of a former foe, Ananias who helped Paul recognize the pull to a new life in Christ.
What forces started and sustained a recent transition for you?
A shelf in my home captures technological advancements in sound over the past forty years. Vinyl long play records fill nearly half the shelf, although I have not had a working record player in twenty years. A box I had built-in eight grade still holds a few cassette tapes and many more sit on top of it. I continued to use cassette tapes at least as long a my car had a player. But they too have been displaced by compact discs. But how much longer CDs will continue to be playable as cloud technology puts an endless array of music and audio books within my reach?
I suppose I hang on to my record collection as a tangible reminder of songs from my youth. The cassettes continue to get shelf space as I still have a tape player in an old radio allowing me to delude myself into thinking that I might listen to them once more before pitching them as well.
I suppose I could display the record covers changing them from time to time or season to season. But sooner or later I will recognize that their era has past and these relics can be disposed to make room in my life for new adventures.
For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven: …
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
— Eccelesiastes 3:1 & 6 (NRSV)
What have you hung onto beyond its usefulness which might impede future adventures?
Have you seen a “Wet Paint” sign with a daub of paint on it? That daub of paint gives the painter and the curious a place to touch and see if the paint is actually wet.
Jesus gave his disciples the same opportunity to touch and see that he had risen from the grave. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus eats a piece of fish in front of them demonstrating his resurrection.
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Luke 24:41-43 (NRSV)
Each Sunday we also get a small sample to touch and see, perhaps even taste God’s goodness. We touch one another shaking hands passing the peace of Christ, even greeting people we might avoid Monday through Saturday, demonstrating for a few seconds the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Each Sunday I pour water into our baptismal font during the assurance of pardon as a visible reminder of our baptism and our cleansing from sin. Each Sunday I offer our children an object lesson, occasionally bringing a physical object for them to touch and see, to help them and those sitting in the pews recognize God with us. And when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we break bread together eating from one loaf of bread tasting God’s assurance of our unity in Christ.
I remember the lifeguard teaching my classmates and I to blow bubbles at my first swimming lesson. “Take a breath of air, put your face into the water, blow bubbles, turn your head to the side, take another breath, and repeat.” This is a lesson I mastered as a six year-old.
Similarly the first lesson when sharing the gospel is learning to blow bubbles. Take a deep breath of the Holy Spirit, then while out in the world slowly exhale. Return to the community of faith and take another deep breath of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ disciples had a tough week: a passover celebration with a new symbol of bread and wine and foot washing, a rigged trial, and his crucifixion. John reports that they encountered the risen Jesus in a locked room when Jesus tells them: My peace be with you. … Receive the Holy Spirit. While you have your head up out of the troubles of life, inhale the breath of God.
This lesson applies not only to sharing the gospel, but to life itself. During the week we face many challenges and make our share of mistakes. Some of these feel like getting punched and having your breath knocked out. Knowing where to get a refreshing and life restoring breath of the Holy Spirit helps Christians flourish from one Sunday to the next.
Where can you find time to inhale the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, between time in worship?