We all have one shot at this thing called life. Last I checked, the mortality rate on planet earth was a booming 100%. As Willow Creek pastor William Hybels puts it (I’m into formality), on our gravestones we will all have a birth date, a death date, and a dash in-between.
The question is, “What will you do with your “dash?”
Enter Jen Hatmaker’s book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.
There is a tension I feel as I ponder my God-given “dash.” It’s called comfort – or at least the counterfeit illusion of comfort. The illusion that somehow I am in control of my life and all its supporting characters.
In this space between my 1973 hippie chick birthdate and an as yet unknown end-date, I often wonder what this “dash” is really all about. The meaning of life and all that jazz. I’m tempted (oh so very tempted!) to play it safe. And in some respects I suppose I do. Play it safe that is.
There is a part of my type-A, firstborn personality that feels super warm and cozy in a Jeremiah 29:11 kind of place. I love to think God has a plan for my life – for good and not for harm, to give me a hope and a future. And He does! Please hear me, I believe He is THAT good and then some. But I also believe God sent His one and only son to DIE for me and yes, for you! SO THAT we can be in right relationship with Him. SO THAT we might shine like stars in a lost and lonely world. SO THAT we might bear His image in love.
What did Jesus do with his “dash?” He served and He loved and He went to the cross.
I’ve been a Christian since I could reach the kitchen faucet on tip-toe. For so many years in the course of my dash, I thought I knew what love was. And I did, I suppose, in part.
Then the Lord, in His gracious and merciful wisdom decided to take our family on a journey. One He had been preparing us for in the early years of our faith. A journey of adoption. The minute little Ethiopian fingers slipped into mine, my previously held paradigm of all things related to life and love shattered into a million little pieces.
My personal paradigm shifted in an instant and I am not the same. Thank the Lord, I am not the same!
This radical paradigm shift is exactly what Hatmaker addresses in the newly revised and expanded edition of her book. Jen espouses herself as a “recovering legalist” and walks us through her family’s personal journey that began with “one dangerous prayer: ‘Raise up in me a holy passion,’ and concluded with a life of service to the last, the least, the forgotten, and the forsaken.”
This is a right dangerous prayer, people.
And yet, the exhilaration housed within hints at something bigger than you or I could ever muster up on our own. In my own little world, I am queen of the castle and master of none. But in His world the possibilities are endless! To this point I have but sniffed at the full, abundant life Jesus came to give. But the smell is rich and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I want to experience more.
Hatmaker’s book is yet another invitation God has sent my way as He continually beckons me into His bigger story. It is a quick read, but it is not an easy one. Well, unless you consider statements like, “This is my high calling: to live on mission as an adopted daughter of Jesus. If people around me aren’t moved by my Christ or my church, then I must be doing a miserable job of representing them both” (pg. 95) – easy.
No. It is not easy. But it is good. Because Hatmaker reminds us to take a good hard look at our inside before we foolishly step outside. She writes, “If we’ve learned anything from the rebellious nation of Israel, the Pharisees and Saducees, and the meager offerings of the poor in Scripture, it is this: God is supremely concerned with our motives, and our works count only when they match our intentions.” (pg. 108)
Christ Himself is the epitome of love. And His sacrificial, unconditional, not-in-it-for-me-and-my-reputation kind of love must be the backbone of all we do. It is precisely this image that must be seared on our hearts and branded on our hands lest we fall prey to reversing the Kingdom perspective of servant leadership – emphasis on the “serve.”
Again, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I will die. And so will you.
I don’t know how God is calling you to live out your dash, but I do know He is calling. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of HOW. His invitation might be a giant roar or it may be a gentle whisper. But rest assured, He is calling.
I pray for grace in the moment to answer with a “yes” and “amen.”
Honestly, I know what it looks like to pray such a dangerous prayer – to be “all in” for the sake of the gospel. And because of that, I tremble a bit as I open my hands once again. I don’t know all the details or exactly which direction the Spirit is blowing, but I pray for a holy passion. I know how easy it seems to live on one side of this prayer; in the cozy, the comfortable, the known. But I also know what it looks like when God rushes in with an unexpected hand-crafted invitation to experience His Kingdom here on earth in new and profound ways and I don’t ever want to miss out on that again!
I once heard Bill Hybels say, “The church is the hope of the world.” And I believe this to be true. With my whole heart I believe it – but I also know we’ve got some work to do to make this a living, breathing reality. And for darn sure I know this work needs to start in me. I am slow, but I pray I am making imperfect progress.
Hatmaker’s dreams for this kind of hope-of-the-world, Christ-centered church mimic mine (she just has a much more eloquent way of saying it!):
“I dream of a church that is once again called great, even by our skeptics, because our works of mercy cannot be denied. I want no part in a movement that is deemed great because we’ve adopted some exceptional qualities admired by the top.
I don’t want to be known for a great band.
I don’t want to be admired for a great campus.
I don’t want to be recognized for a great marketing campaign.
I don’t want to be praised for great programming.
I don’t want to be applauded for great theology and scholarship.
I want the church to be great because we fed hungry mommas and their babies. I’d like to be great because we battled poverty with not just our money but our hands and hearts. I desire the greatness that comes from seeking not only mercy but justice for those caught in a system with trapdoors. I hope to be part of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, who injects supernatural wind and fire into His mission. My vision of great will come when others are scratching their heads and saying, ‘Wow, you live a really different life.'” (pp. 82-83)
May the shift happen. May we be different. May we live our God-given dash. For the hope of the world…
PS – “Sometimes following God is the worst. I can say with some confidence: if you go wherever God says and when, expect to be misunderstood. And go anyway.” – Jen Hatmaker