I finally entered the labyrinth. (See yesterday's post about my hesitancy to enter.) As I walked, I realized something deep was going on inside me. All my logical walls were trying to go up: Why would walking through a labyrinth help me open my heart to God? But I pushed aside logic and walked. With every turn through the maze, more things arose within me. Within ten steps, I was pouring out my heart to God. I was recounting pains and disappointments, frustrations and even bitterness. As I walked toward the center which was marked by a cross, all this stuff was coming up in me that I needed to release at the cross, things that I did not even realize were weighing me down.
This experience reminds me of Jesus' words about discipleship in Luke 9:23-24: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Admittedly, I've heard this passage quoted hundreds of times. I've even preached on it. But it came to life to me. The words "deny self" gained new meaning. This was not about me loosing my identity or denying that I had something to offer to God and the world. This was not about some kind of platonic version of "all God and none of me."
This was about the pulling back of the false me, that which covers up who God made me to be. It's the denial of things like performing for others' approval, fighting to attain security in this life, putting hope in self-reliance and fearing failure. As I walked and poured out my heart to God, I recounted the journey of the last year and how God has brought incredible inside-out transformation. Deep questions of the soul that strip bear all the false pretenses, even the good false pretenses.
For nearly four years I've been writing about how joining God on mission is not about us just doing good stuff for people in need. It's not about just going out and being evangelistic. It's about being a people who are shaped by God's missional life of agape love. In other words, we actually embody the life found in Luke 9:23-24 instead of just doing external stuff that looks like Luke 9:23-24. We must think beyond categories like "a shift from internally focused to externally focused." These two poles on a spectrum are both wrong because the spectrum is wrong. We need a different imagination about what it means to be God's people, one that invites us to a path of mission that will re-form who we are from the core of our being.
Read part 3 of this series here.