When we plan, we have an end in mind, an outcome. These outcomes become drivers that help us stay focused and motivate us. Very few of us do anything without an outcome in mind. Whether we’re going to the store, or going to bed, we’re anticipating certain results.
In philosophy, this concept of a goal, an end-game, is referred to as teleology (gr. telos). When we live our lives, we who are reflective and consider the end and not just the beginning or middle, would be considered teleological thinkers.
Some of us are really wired, and perhaps even gifted to sift through many possible outcomes. If we have a big decision to make, we envision the potentialities, the outcomes. Will this make us happy? What will my life look like when the dust settles on this decision, or that decision? For many of us, to simply forge ahead impulsively and not consider the teleological end would be the very definition of insanity.
Enter Jesus, and a depth of Christ following that I’m only just beginning to live into. I can say, without a doubt, that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed mapping out my life to date. I left the comfort of my rural Canadian farm life at the ripe age of 18. It was exciting, risk filled, and under-girded by a desire to detach my story from any sense of predictability and safety. After marrying, Deb and I found ourselves taking wild left and right turns, from Louisiana, to Mexico, Texas, and ultimately Ukraine. It all was going well, until it wasn’t.
The way we navigate life as we age, changes. As you sojourn through this mid-life phase, there are some rather sneaky things that begin to take place, often buried quite deeply in the soul. They aren’t as obvious as one might think, they require isolation, solitude, and a bravery that makes impulsive risk taking seems like a piece of cake. You see, for the broken, which I suspect is all of us, our teleological end game is skewed. We aren’t truly living for the kinds of virtuous endings we’d like to think.
We’re afraid of this life, because if we’re honest, we’re terrified of death.
How do I know this to be true? Well, my end game, my focused outcome wasn’t as much about enjoying the present or the Creator that made it, as it was co-authoring a story that would impress me, others, and the Creator that just might be weighing some scales. The motivations of my life were driven, therefor, by fear. This wretched thing called fear takes so many shapes! It’s most damning effect, I think, is in it’s insulating work. Fear drives us into the past, and into the future, because the present is terrifying.
The past and future are, in effect, illusory figments of the mind. There is no love there, for love can only take place in the present. We can’t love our future friend, lover, or God in the future. The present is where the action is at. The present moment, the present click of the keyboard, the present smell of burnt toast, the present grinding of my son Noah’s electric guitar in the basement. This gift of of the present, has been for me the hidden treasure I’ve spent the first half of my life overlooking in the chase of the teleological end of a life well lived.
Do you see the problem?
Deb and I are no longer motivated by what instigated us forward in the past. Why? Well, quite simply, we’ve been reckoning with the deep love of Jesus. This love, while comfortably lodged in our prefrontal cortex these many years, has been re-inviting us to consider its demanding, holistic work.
The good news, if you haven’t heard, is that we are loved by an everlasting, perfect love of a Father.
This love comes us to us in the present. We may have experienced this love in the past, and we will inevitably experience love in the future, but love is intending to balm and heal us now, in this moment. As we posture our hearts for this reality, this love, we face our deepest fears. Our narratives, our efforts, our attempts to run from the present are confronted. We need a deeper faith to confront our deep insecurities, and sense of unworthiness.
So, let’s close with this whole idea of surrendering our outcomes. Caught in the throws of this war in Ukraine, our family has relocated to Romania. The narrative, the calling to mission, the Crowe family running about doing crazy things for Christ, well, it’s taking a beating. As we come increasingly aware of this profound love come to us in Jesus, we’re sensing the invitation to surrender all these formulated outcomes. It’s death, it’s crushing, it’s a cross.
The cross is not just a symbol or event somehow detached from the nature of God instrincially. The cross is a place of self emptying, of implicit trust. Jesus, if truly the Son of God, could have at any time changed his outcome. What an outcome of his life!? He wrestled with this, and we’re given the inside look into his soul’s anguish as his fully human self embraced, by faith, the fully divine mandate from the Father. He was suspended, between the earth, and the sky, in a place of utmost trust in the trustworthy character of God the Father.
We too are called, to these mini-crosses, these places of surrendered outcomes. We may have the so called wisdom, the practical experience, the skills to pay the bills to navigate our own way through valleys of indecision. The cross, however, doesn’t ask us to living into particular futures. We’re already loved, perfectly, and this love liberates us from holding particular outcomes with a fierce grip.
We are invited to surrender the outcomes, and thereby participate in this cruciformity of Christ.
These are becoming more than words. They are not new words, being crucified with Christ, or giving our lives to Christ. Something happens, however, that defies all previous experiences on this journey when the words become a prayer, a surrender of trust, and love in the present moment moves in. We become the grain of wheat that dies and enters the earth. This is the miracle of Christ following, it’s a pattern. When we die, we yet live. We who serve Christ have a resurrection faith, and the power of this new life can only be found on the other side of surrender.
I still plan, I consider outcomes, and I think I’m really good at it too! I have to purposefully stop myself from going down the limitless paths before me. What’s different, or what’s becoming different, is that when I reach one that I really like and feel the clasping hand begin to close around a particular outcome, I see Jesus smiling, and directing me to a cross of trust.
I can lay things down and truly surrender the outcome when I am liberated from fear, living into the present and being filled with His love.