November 30, 2010

Shadow Mission

My memory is fuzzy right now. I am trying to remember when something I heard something significant and what its source was. This is the part I do remember, it was at Bayside Camp, and Ben Trites the camp director said it.

I was the speaker at camp for the week which meant joining in on the morning staff meeting. The meeting went more or less the way I would expect. Yesterday's challenges were discussed, the days schedule was explained, key themes of the day were outlined, and of course there was time set aside for devotion and prayer.

Ben told us about a book he read, or a talk he heard around our shadow mission. The originator of the idea said that ever Christian has two missions in their lives; the mission given to them by God, and a shadow mission. The mission given to them by God is of course what they should be doing. It might be something as life altering as packing up and heading to some forgotten place in the world to spread the gospel or it might be as common place and being a light for Christ in your work place or family.

Your shadow mission on the other hand is another mission one that is trying to hamper you from doing your God given mission. I found the idea compelling, and enlightening. I am still sorting out what my life's God given mission is. Clearly having gone to seminary I understand I am called into vocational ministry, and currently I feel the work I do with children teens and young adults is consistent with that call, but beyond that I have little figured out.

But I know my shadow mission very well. There are some days I can feel it pressing against my very soul with a force that it near impossible to resist. There are days when it is impossible to resist. My shadow mission is to be a lazy geeky gamer who eats junk food.

Now I want to clarify. Being a geek, and a gamer is as much part of my self understanding as almost anything else. The only thing about that which makes me sad is it is far more cooler to be a geek now than it was when I was in Jr High or High School. The problem isn't that my shadow mission is sinful in of itself. The problem is my shadow mission wants me to devote my life to those things as an end in of itself instead of being a hobby to enjoy.

There is nothing sinful wanting to enjoy watching Spiderman, cracking open a bag of chips or booting up the Xbox 360 for a evening of geeking out. But when I making doing that the prime motivator in my life, than I fall into sinful territory.

The question than is; what can we do about these shadow missions that seek to prevent us from completing our God given missions? Our greatest weapons are awareness, awareness again and vigilance.

The shadow mission in your life is its most sinister when you don't know what it is. I am not sure how many hours I logged playing a game because I needed to 'relax' at the expense of working on a paper, or writing a sermon. The scary thing is when I tally up the 'relaxing time' and the 'serious work time' sometimes the ratios are far to close to 1:1.

But being aware of the problem is hardly enough. Along with being aware of your shadow mission you need to be aware of your God given mission. Awareness of this mission may well be harder to glean. Yet knowing your genuine mission makes recognizing the counterfeits easier. Learning what your true mission is may take a great deal of prayer, time and effort on your part. For others you may have a burning bush moment, but I suspect most will find themselves in long bouts of prayer and seeking. No matter how hard or easy it is to determine, it is critically important to seek out your God given mission so you can live the life your are designed for.

Lastly we need vigilance. Knowledge is simply not enough. Right now I know a fair amount about both of the missions I am on. But if I am not vigilant I will slowly drift from God to my shadow mission. Vigilance for me is making sure I am spending time in prayer and devotions to keep me connected to God and the mission he is giving me. It is also about being aware of where I am spending my time. Does this mean I never have a geek out night, not a chance. But it does mean when I do they are not at the expense of my God given mission.

So let me ask you;

What is your God given mission? What is your shadow mission? And which of the two are you on right now?

*** As it turns out Over Coming Your Shadow Mission is a book by John Ortberg. Admittedly I am glad I found that out after processing the idea of a shadow mission and relating it to my life because if I had known the source I likely would have ignored it completely.