Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:
To will or not to will, that is the question. Without an exercised will, I am a dishrag, limp in a dirty sink. But the moment I begin exercising my will, I find that I have put a fox in charge of the chicken coop. I ponder St. Paul, ‘I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate’ (Rom. 7:15) The question at the heart of the intersection of God’s will and human wills is apparently at the heart of everything. The way we answer it shapes our humanity in every dimension. I now see that all the jobs I have ever been given have been apprenticeships in the work of God. We learn to live with praying-willing involvement in an action that we do not originate. The art is willed passivity. Humble boldness (or, bold humility) enters into a sane, robust willing – free willing – and finds its most expressive and satisfying experience in prayer to Jesus Christ, who wills our salvation. Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Nine, The Contemplative Pastor pp. 105, 106, 109, 111, 112, 115)
Talk about trying to walk in the radical middle!
How often I find myself in a circus act of balancing my life between these two powerful truths.
Truth #1) Without God and His Kingdom-will being exerted in and through my life, I am nothing, nor does anything I do in life truly matter.
Truth #2) Without my human will being exerted, nothing in this life counts for anything; to God, to others, nor myself.
So there you have it. Two truths.
Both accurate, yet at first glance, they seem to contradict each other. But do they really?
Peterson’s ninth chapter in The Contemplative Pastor addresses this difficult balancing act between exerting our will and deferring to God’s. And as I see it, Peterson does a masterful job of positioning us in the place God wants us to be. Practicing the fine art of humble boldness, while living a life full of bold humility.
Jesus was the Master of this art form. If we study His life carefully, we find an amazing ability to walk in complete submission to the will of God, His Father, while also taking full advantage of His human will, changing the world in ways no other human has or ever will. A humble and fully-submitted man, always deferring to His Father and His interests, yet choosing to walk freely in this life, performing signs and wonders, speaking un-paralleled truth, gathering people to Himself, thus leading a world-wide revolution that continues even to today.
In my 2002 book, The Perfected Self, I delve into this seemingly impossible idea of living a God-perfected life of humble boldness, while adhering fully to Jesus’ model of bold humility. My conclusion is much like Peterson’s. It all comes down to practice. In truth, this temporary life we’ve been given here on planet earth is simply ‘practice’ for the permanent life to come. In any true art form or human discipline, (i.e. from dance to playing football to learning to play a violin), ‘practice’ is just that. In practice, we are simply learning how to do something. And as my wife, Sandy often reminds me, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, it simply makes things permanent!
And if you’ve ever learned the fine art of riding a bicycle, you know that there are many times you fall off the stupid thing, skinning your hands and knees, while making a complete fool of yourself. But if one keeps practicing and working at it, eventually a certain skill set develops in us, allowing ‘bike riding’ to become something of a second nature to us.
So it is with practicing the fine art of humble boldness while living a life full of bold humility. This life we have here on earth is all about practicing this fine art of balancing our ‘self;’ learning to use (and not abuse) our self-will in ways that glorify, while always deferring to, the perfect will of our Father.
Well, time to stop talking about it. How about if you and I get out there today, and with the leading and empowerment of God’s Spirit, we practice this fine art of balancing ‘self’ for the glory of God?
Sound like a good plan?
Or am I over-working my self-will here?
My prayer: Father, I thank You for the gift of free will. It truly is a gift from You and I need to exercise that gift, lest it grows flabby and falls worthless to the side. Yet, Almighty King, my free will, when exercised through the shallowness of my own self-centeredness, can get me into one big pile of self-glorifying doo-doo. Help, Holy Spirit, Help. Bring me ever closer to the perfection of my human will, submitted fully to Yours, as demonstrated so beautifully by Jesus of Nazareth. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What needs to radically change in my approach to the use of my free will? Am I guilty of running too far ahead of God, selling and telling from my own self-initiative? Or am I equally guilty of falling too far behind the Master, waiting for Him to do everything for me so that I don’t over-exercise the free will God gave me?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?
Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!