Thursday, March 05, 2009

This Life of Downward Mobility...

This life of downward mobility is something that keeps coming up in conversations all over the place. I first remember thinking about this (I mean really thinking about it) a few years ago when walking through my seminary campus with my friend JD and he slowed a bit as we approached a small cemetery. He pointed and said "this is what seminary is all about." I had a lot of conversations when I was about to leave seminary about my relationships being closer with seminary friends because it is with these people that you learn to die. I said it a lot because I think it made me sound like I knew what I was talking about. It wasn't that I didn't believe it; it’s just that I am not sure I really understood it.

I think after seminary, I began to really see, from inside the church, what it meant to be in a state of selflessness and to live into a call to follow Jesus, and that this is a life not for the faint of heart.

So Thursday, I had lunch with Joe Nader and Dale Williams, both these guys live in other towns, so it was a real treat to just be with them. We laughed, talked about life, and God, and jobs and job interviews. The thing with Dale is that with him, you can cut the crap and get to the heart of the matter without all the details. No beating around the bush with this guy. The other thing I love about Dale is that when he prays, he says a lot of "mmm hmms" and "yeses." It’s as if someone is talking back to him but no one else can hear. I love to watch this and to pray with him. Oh, and Dale has an African soul. I will tell you about it sometime.

So today he prayed over Joe and me and there was something he said in one of his prayers that has remained with me. I chewed on it, told others about it and am now sharing it with you.

"Dare I pray that we might descend into holiness?...Yes, yes I do...But we will not go alone. No, you will go with us..."

I have always thought of holiness as something we work upward toward. Not downward. It seemed like something to attain, as we climb up toward God. But it is downward mobility that takes us to holiness. Humbleness and humility, and sometimes humiliation. This is the road to holiness. It is difficult, scary, and sacrificial. But we do not go alone. We cannot go alone. We need Jesus in us as we journey toward the cross. Dale recognized that to go into holiness is difficult and can be painful, like refining fire. Sometimes, what looks like death is really life giving. We see cemeteries and they don't draw up images of happiness and joy, but sorrow. It is when that decension is made and complete, when the "crucified with Christ" happens for us, that we will begin to make our upward climb. None of this, do we do alone.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Jesus was all alone on the cross so that we don’t have to be. It is a giant we can face if we know we don’t have to do it alone.


Julie said...

I tried to comment on this post when I read it the other day, but my computer was in a bad mood. :(

What a great post! Days later, I am still thinking about it. I'll probably blog about parts of it that jogged my memory sooner or later. I especially liked your thought near the end, "Sometimes, what looks like death is really life giving." Beautiful.

And I love your thoughts (and Dale's!) on the fact that we never really go it alone. God walks it with us and we with Him. We so quickly forget and forge out on our own. But the path of downward mobility cannot be accomplished on our own. That's the most humbling and blessed part of it...

joe said...

Good post B! Can't wait to go deeper this coming Thursday.