Congratulations reader! If you have worked through the relational map exercise and spent some time considering proximity you are ahead of most. However, you are still probably lacking of clarity about where/who God is sending you to. That's totally normal. Today, I'm just going to tackle some basic issues that you might be facing as you think and pray through this process...
Issue #1: "I'm not 100% certain who I'm sent to."
Welcome to the club! Absolute certainty and clarity are generally lacking when it comes to mission. Though we have goals, and we'll even have strategies, the truth is that we must give up control of the process, starting with our desire for total clarity over who/what/how things will play out. Mission depends on God's leading, and on our faithful following. We have to be okay with trying and experimenting at this stage, even if we're not sure we're in the right place. Trial and error and lots of grace will get us to where we need to be (Paul's journey to Philippi in Acts 16:6-10 is a great example here).
Issue #2: "I don't have viable proximity with non-Christians."
If you feel this way then let me first gently push back... really? You really don't even have proximity with any neighbors or with co-workers who are non-Christians? It's possible this is true (I live in a vacation oriented condo community with few full-time residents and I have no co-workers myself), but I would challenge you to really think hard about this before you claim it. If this is your situation, then you have some work to do. If your work is mobile, it might be time to start doing some work at a library or coffee shop. Join a gym or a club or get involved with something that will give you proximity. Have fun with this! I'm giving you an excuse to pursue a hobby as a means of getting to know people.
Issue #3: "I have proximity with people but my heart isn't there."
I have two follow up questions for this issue:
1. Is your heart somewhere else?
Let's say you don't feel the Holy Spirit tugging on you at all where you already have proximity. But you're losing sleep over the plight of the homeless, or the forgotten elderly in the local government nursing facility, or the migrant families struggling to survive in your city and feel God is calling you there. Great! If God has laid a burden for a particular place or issue then we can go from there. But it's important for you to consider what this will mean up front. You still need proximity, which means you'll probably need to make some significant sacrifices to get that proximity. If you work full-time, can you give up a couple of nights a week and some weekend time to make this happen? If not, then either you are mistaken about this call, or you need to make some lifestyle changes.
2. What if your heart just isn't anywhere?
Assuming you agree with me that mission is critical to being a disciple of Jesus (not sure why you'd be reading this blog otherwise) then I'd gently suggest that this is a compassion issue. If you read the gospels, much of Jesus' ministry was driven by his compassion for hurting, lost and desperate people. If we (I include myself in this) lack compassion, then God's love is not working in us as it should, or is being obstructed by other issues. My experience is that these issues could be:
- Ignorance: we don't know the people around us, and the painful struggles they face.
- Trauma: our own wounds are consuming us and we don't have energy to spare for others.
- Self-Righteousness: we don't think the people hurting around us merit our time and energy.
- Satiation: we're so entertained and comforted that we are not disturbed by the pain of others.
If you're in this camp, this would be the time and place for you to ask yourself some difficult questions. And let me add, please, don't throw in any shame and guilt here. Those won't help! What we're looking for is honesty, and the courage to deal with what we truly find. If we're honest, we've all hit those four categories at various times on our journey.