Reading, I love it. I was sitting down the other day in one of those neat straw made deals in a conservatory in Salford and for the best part of an hour or so I was just chilling and reading the Michael Foot biography. Kenneth O. Morgan (I wonder if he get upset if we miss that crucial O.) did a fantastic job on the book in making it engrossing reading, I hope I get round to doing a review of it when I’ve finished it.
So whilst I was on the throne recently and had an opportunity to read more about Foot it reminded me of a text I’d sent to a dear friend of mine. By the way as a small diversion, isn’t it a privilege to have dear friends, you know the sort to whom there is a connection and a repartee on a given subject. I love those kind of dear friends. I haven’t always had them and I thought my brother would be the only one at one stage, but God in His kindness allowed me to link with some others, really nice of Him.
Anyway, so I text this dear friend earlier before my stint on the throne and I said to the friend that Foot was the right man at the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact what I should have said was that Foot was a good man in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no era in the 20th Century or any stage of the Labour movement when that brother would have been the right leader. Sure things may have been worse if Healey or Shore had taken over in 1980, but seriously what kind of message are you sending in letting a scruffy, old, rhetorician anywhere near the keys to power?
As I reigned on the throne, however, I saw that point as the ideal way to get us back on where we were and the links between part one of this two part series. Quick recap – we can play players in their best positions and hope for the best, or we can have a system for which we select certain players at certain times even if it’s not playing the brother at his best position. We linked that with the current Liverpool malaise and the less we say about that the better.
So here’s the link. As you may recall back in April I made a Statement of Intent which was basically reiterating a phrase I’d come across at the beginning of 2009 – In my element for my season. Rooted in Psalm 1:3 this was all about a renewed commitment to being planted exactly where God wants me to be physically, socially, spiritually, vocationally, relationally, etc. etc. Making the statement is one thing, living up to it is another thing. Uncovering what that costs is an even more tricky thing when we consider it in greater detail. As I have discovered and continue to discover this can be a very costly business.
It’s costly, but it is worthwhile and here’s my contention on the issue. I’m sure some people are predestined to be misfits and malcontents – their role in the larger scheme of things is to make people uncomfortable by asking awkward questions in awkward ways and appear somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream. Thankfully God gives us biblical dudes who fit that bill like Elijah and John D. Baptist (is it the only biblically acceptable denomination? You decide. OK actually God does, but you can have a good guess, as a hint it doesn’t start with ‘y’).
This calling, though, is pretty specific though and you’ve got to be very well equipped emotionally, mentally and relationally to deal with the flack, rejection and abuse that comes with it. In a very real way you have to be designed for the task. That leads neatly into another underpinning scripture behind the desire not to see people play life out of position. Ephesians is a book in the bible worth serious study – when you’ve read it once, read it again and then one more time to even begin to comprehend what on earth Paul is saying and its vast implications. One little verse in there gets to the heart of what I’m all about with the playing in position deal.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
First thing that I notice about this is that it is not an individual call – it relates to a corporate call to be about the business for which we’ve been made. Implicit within this and to further explained later on in the letter if the corporate is going to be effective in getting on with its business, the individual parts need to be in their place functioning as they need to function. Or as Paul puts it
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 16 emphasis added)
Now for each part to be working properly and with the recognition that we’re different parts of the growing organism there is great importance on discovering what our place is. That discovery process is not superficial but gets to the core of who we are as defined by God not by personal experience, friends, family, denomination, etc. although these can contribute to the process.
The deal then is about going back to the Coach to discover what our best position is, because He would have the best idea of where we fit in the team. Everyone wants to play up front and hog the headlines, but thankfully the Coach knows best. He plays us in different positions, sure, but He knows that you’re a right back or a left winger or a tough tackling midfielder or a commanding defender or a creative maestro just behind the front two, or the goal-poacher.
He knows and once you know He knows and He lets you know then not only do you find out but on playing in that position you feel at your best. Each position requires discipline and an understanding of what the position demands, but these demands are not imprisoning and confining, indeed these are Garden of Eden opportunities where you can eat the fruit of any tree – you get to enjoy all the garden and then discover that it contributes to others also being released to do what they’re called to do. Before you know it, everyone is in their place, everyone functions out of love and joy in Christ rather than dictation or obligation. Then you’re pinging the ball around and playing the lovely football of life enjoying sharing and serving each other, setting each other up for goal scoring opportunities whilst covering for each other to prevent break-aways.
It’s a joy. It’s a delight. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honour. It is no longer mind-less routine or ritual. It is no longer drudgery or confusing hypocrisy as you kid yourself with the fake-it-till-you-make-it psychology. It is being in your best position and enjoying Christ in it. It is then having an impact on the lives of others by doing that.
I am convinced in my brief time on planet earth that far too many people … far too many Christians … far too many eager well-meaning followers of Christ are playing out of position. Far too many accept their circumstances, background, institutional and inhibitive or deceptive doctrinal demands from work, home and church without any consideration to where God actually has placed them to be as His workmanship.
I know only too well how soul-destroying it can be. I know only too well how real it seems at the time and how it appears to be all there is your life and it’s a status quo you can live with, when in actuality it takes the love of God to break through to help you move on with your life to be rooted and grounded in Him. I know only too well how miserable and unfulfilled and unfruitful this kind of living can be. So it’s no surprise that I have a desperate desire to see people awake to who they are in Christ and then join Him in the steps towards real freedom, real service, abundant living by fruitful serving by the character of Christ being formed in us.
It’s not a utopia that gives us our selfish gratifications, but it is a real godly Kingdom in which who we really are becomes further revealed in us as we give our lives completely to Him. That won’t necessarily help Liverpool win the Premier League, but it will certainly help followers of Christ to enjoy the Kingdom that we’ve been translated into.
For His Name's Sake