“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him…”
Ok, so it’s January 11th. We’re eleven days into the new year. How are your New Year’s Resolutions holding up? Don’t lie. I was at the YMCA the other day and the New Year’s rush is already slacking off. And what were those resolutions anyway? I’m guessing some had to do with learning a new skill. Some had to do with quitting an old habit. But many of those resolutions had something to do with personal productivity. We want to be better, faster, more effective. Or at least we say we do. But maybe there is a gap between what we declare as a New Year’s Resolution and what we actually long for. And maybe that gap is why we are so bad at actually keeping our resolutions.
Why is it that so many of our resolutions revolve around productivity when what we long for often has more to do with presence? I’m guessing for some of us, “presence” may be a longing that is hidden so deep in our hearts that we don’t know how to put it to words. It’s easier to think in terms of productivity, because the productive mindset is so deeply ingrained in us. Our culture celebrates busyness. It is tangible. We can measure it. We can find worth in it. So, often times, whether we really desire it or not, we go there. Without adequate words, we settle for productivity rather than presence.
Recently, I wrestled with just such a dilemma. I found myself caught between the seemingly opposing poles of productivity and presence, desiring something, but not knowing exactly what it was, much less how to put it to words. A friend wisely wrestled alongside of me, acknowledging his own longing, and offering a word. Brotherliness. That’s it! We had found our word, but we also realized experiencing the word might prove to be something altogether more challenging.
I actually don’t think my friend and I are alone in this longing. Nor do I think we are alone in our struggle to both define and satisfy that longing. And maybe that struggle reveals something deep within us…a longing which is actually hardwired into us by our Creator.
In this whole discussion, I am reminded of Jesus’ priorities outlined in Mark 3:14. In that passage, Jesus is appointing the men who will become Apostles. They will be the ones He will use to build the Church. So in Mark 3 Jesus calls them together to equip them for the work to come. That work would be the work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and establishing the Church of Jesus Christ, which would serve as the bride of Jesus Christ, preparing us to live in blessed union with Jesus Christ for all eternity.
There it is. Union. Presence. Life together. So notice Jesus’ first priority in training the men who would establish the Church. “He appointed twelve (whom He also named apostles) SO THAT THEY MIGHT BE WITH HIM.” Yes, Jesus also sent them out to preach and He gave them authority over demons. But first, He meant for them to be with Him.
Does that strike you? Presence was a priority for Jesus. You might even say that presence was part of the training. It was training for the establishment of the Church. It was training for union within the Church. It was training for an eternity of union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
So now, for our New Year’s resolution people, we’re starting to talk in terms that sound more resolution-ish. Only this resolution is rooted in our deep longing, and rather than productivity, is focused on presence.
At Christ Church, we’ve been exploring our vision as it impacts and transforms our culture. We’ve spoken of the desire to move from a culture marked by BUSYNESS to one marked by LIFE TOGETHER. As we do so I’d like to offer a mid-January resolution for our church (and for anyone else out there reading). Let us “be with” one another. Let us resolve to train for presence. Let us resolve to train for life together. After all, through Jesus Christ, we’ll enjoy the fruit of this training for all eternity.