As both of you know (figure that is how many read this thing), I returned from a mission in Roatan, Honduras last Sunday. A team of 10 men spent a week building a home for a single mom, engaging with the Honduran culture, and learning about the dwellings ministry we partnered with. The experience included everything imaginable and a few things unimaginable. I don’t yet fully appreciate everything that happened there, perhaps I never will.
Since Sunday, and even a few days prior, I have spent a lot of time journaling, praying, and talking about the experience. It is not that I am searching for that one amazing divine-revelation that will validate the time and expense of the trip. On the contrary, like a grand buffet, I just don’t want to miss any one moral God wants me to chew on from this trip. With a good pipe in hand, I intend on enjoying hours of contemplation for there is much to learn. Moreover, I hope that writing a series of blogs will also help me to process some of the lessons God has for me. Since this is the first mission trip I have been on as a pastor, these blogs will also serve as a tool to share my experience with the church I lead and love.
To begin, the first lesson I learned from this trip has to do with the motivation for going in the first place. Everyone has different reasons for signing up for such adventures. Some probably feel compelled by God, their pastor, or their wives; others are invited by friends; and even a few are simply bored with their lives. Personally, the inspiration from the trip came from a God-given desire to get out of my regular routine and context. Though I may not have said this even a few months ago, I now believe that getting out of your context is more than just change for change sake. It is a God-given desire, which leads to a God-empowered action, for the purpose of restoring a God-centered orientation.
Though I haven’t fully processed every detail of the trip, I remained convinced that EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF THEIR CONTEXT AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR. Of course, there are few guarantees about what will happen when you do this—that is why most people don’t. The only things they can imagine are certain to happen is that they will have to take some risk (which is scary), spend money (which is limited), get time off work (which is difficult) , and otherwise be inconvenienced (which is unappealing). Such “certainties” make convincing excuses. It is amazing how much faith we put in them. In truth, nothing is certain about such adventures before, during, or after. But I have seen how God faithfully makes all things work together for those faithful few willing to trust him despite such “certainties”.
Without doubt, most of us would agree about one certainty. Most of most our lives largely consist of repetition and routine. Personally, the life-rhythms for me and my family are fairly predictable on a daily, weekly, even monthly basis. On a real practical level, I know what I am going to do tomorrow, when I will wake up, when I will go to bed, what I will wear, what I will eat, who I will meet with, what emails I will send, what time “nature will call”, what I will read, what I need to pray for, what I need to study for the sermon, pretty much everything that makes up what I do every day . If that is not depressing enough, I know what roads I will drive on, where I will stop, where I will park, where I will get my coffee, even where I will get gas—and I know who will be there when I do all those things. For better or worse, this is my context.
If we are not careful, I believe the familiarity of our context can numb us to a number of very important things as Christians, namely: 1) the joy of life with God 2) the joy of mission for God 3) and the joy that comes with the unpredictable mystery of following God into something unknown. In other words, we forget why we who we are in Christ and why exactly we are still here.
Not everyone has to go to Honduras to get out of their context, there are a thousand ways to do it, near and far. Here are my some of my personal guidelines about how to get out of your context, generated from my own reflections:
- Go and disconnect: In our world of technology, it is easy to “go” and actually still be here. In order to hear God, I believe you have to stop listening to the cyber world.
- Go and serve: The key to getting out of your context is to focus your time on others. This is not a vacation from your life-rhythms, but a decision to adopt the rhythm of someone else.
- Go on your dime: Quite simply, getting out of your context should cost you something.
- Go with others: Go with a team a people made up of some friends and some acquaintances. Too many, or too close of friends, can easily draw you back into what is familiar by default. You end up being in a different place but the same context, learning nothing.
- Go without your family: Some will disagree with this. I am convinced that family can sometimes be a distraction. Your attention is divided (and rightly so). There is much to be said about doing this with family, but I believe they will be more blessed if you do it alone.
- Go for at least a week: While it takes less than a day to disconnect physically, t usually takes me two or three days to disconnect emotionally.
- Go with God: Getting out of your context is not “taking a break from God.” Stepping away from the normal busyness of life should enable you to spend more time with God.