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Thursday, November 5, 2009

When the Speed Forward Saps the Longing.

I will never forget when I was a young man playing drums in one the first, if not the first touring Christian jazz group, the frustration I felt because the longing I had to see the group attain a larger audience nationally never materialized. My longing was palpable, even physical. It was persistent and strong. It screamed at me sometimes. Other times it just moaned.

Every day when we were off the road, and there were many toward the end, I would wait for news of gigs. I would walk to the band mailbox to check for inquiries about booking a date. I would wait for James, the "famous" one in the group to tell me about a phone call that would open doors. I was miserable most of the time because of the interminable wait and diminishing opportunities over the months.

I have realized over the years that my wiring lends itself to longing especially about what could be, what might be, if only . . . I exhilarate in new beginnings, starting-from-scratch hints of something alive and wonderful, or creating from nothing and seeing new birth. I want to experience the intelligently novel, the startlingly insightful or clever. I want to taste the delight of heaven's freedom and freshness even now. I long for the "you mean it can be this way?" I love being surprised by ingenuity that transports me to a world beyond and awakens my longing for more and deeper and more real.

Longing also hints at justice and making things right too. It is not merely concerned with pleasure and delight. God-breathed longing wants the good and true to prevail. Longing says "I have a dream." If it is aimed at important things it can launch the trajectory of an entire life and save or heal many others.

So when I am most myself, I am longing.

The problem is: so much of life involves waiting and struggling to turn worthwhile longing into reality. Creation is subject to frustration because of sin. Frustration sidles up to longing and gradually saps its life if one is not vigilant and tenacious. Headway is made or thwarted, and often, if headway is painfully slow, longing becomes anemic or eventually abandoned. A vision dies, sometimes even a God-sent one.

I have found beginning new ministry, ala imagine/northampton begins with vigorous longing and dreaming. It's exciting, even intoxicating to a degree. Life abounds in the idea and almost overwhelming potential of it all. The vision is grand! But you soon learn you need to keep your feet on the ground because the way forward will be tough, strewn with obstacles, frustrations and rabbit-trails galore . . . or just plain waiting to see what God is going to bring into being. Patience will need to be of the one foot in front of the other varieties, and it will feel sometimes like climbing that last 100 feet of Mount Everest with little strength and oxygen left.

In founding at least 5 new ministries, I have seen that for energizing longing to prevail you need a "one-day-at-a-time" perspective.You keep the longing simmering by patient persistence, not expecting too much progress, but not despairing of any either. You notice the steps forward, no matter how small and you expect the progress to be modest, unless God does the unusual. You are in for the duration, and you never stop longing for what could or must be. Gratitude for the smallest openings helps as well.

If the speed forward saps one's longing to trace levels over time he or she will need to take stock with God and let him opt them out or re-fire them.

Ultimately, longing turns dreams into reality when the person entrusted with God-sized longings never lets the progress of today sap the promise of many tomorrows lived in " a long obedience in the same longing of worth." Cheesy, I know, but true.[

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