In a group with close friends, we’ve been talking about God’s gift of ambiguity, and perhaps by definition of the topic itself, there will never be closure on that discussion. Maybe its my ADD, more likely its my need for control, but clarity and definable terms are of high value to me. Those paper assignments in high school that were sort of wide open were very unpleasant and caused quite a bit of anxiety. I just wanted to know what the teacher wanted and the exact parameters for accomplishing his or her intended goals. I love mission statements and strategic plans. Check-off lists and schedules make me feel secure and confident and there is nothing more intoxicating than to be handed a new binder with labeled sections and all sorts of color coded resources ordered inside.
But it seems that my having a handle on God’s work in and through my life is not of the same high value to God’s purposes as it is to my comfort zone: Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.” Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13:18-21
A tree growing or yeast making its way through dough is not really visible as it is happening. A lot of work is taking place, but the visibility would only be possible with a time lapse camera. The Kingdom of God is growing in the hearts of believers, by faith given as a gift from God, by the power of the Spirit also given as a gift. There is no strategic plan or mission statement that will help any of these processes speed up or occur more effeciently. Those just give us a vain perception of being in control (which we are not) and ultimately a false security in our own righteous achievements (rather than total reliance on the righteous accomplishments of Jesus alone).
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
These are ambiguous terms for a reason. I am not in charge of God’s Kingdom coming, in my heart or anyone else’s. I can’t grab hold of it and force it to do my will in my timing. While I constantly want to find answers to “what is my role?” or “where do I fit with this person or that group?”, God does not need for me to know in order for Him to grow His Kingdom in and through me. He knows my role in His story with His people, and He will be certain that I am used to the glory of His story. It’s not really my problem.
So, I am left with the uncomfortable ambiguity and frequent feeling of “lostness”. That, it seems, is exactly where He wants me. In those moments when I most want to cling to a ten-year-plan, a definable position or title, a clarifed relationship to my particular friends and community, He is asking me to cling to Him alone. If my identity is in Him alone, what do I need with a title? If my righteousness is in His completed fulfillment of the Law, what more do I receive by a completed to-do list? If the creator of the universe is also the Lover of my soul, what need is still lacking that I should demand it be met by the people around me instead of finding it in relationship with Him alone?
He is asking me to trust Him with the plan, with the script, with the days and with my very being. Rather than my measurable strategic plans, my accomplishment check lists, and all my varied means of justifying my daily existence, He is asking me to look to Him alone, be measured by Him alone and to have my existence justified by His accomplished work alone as it begins to grow His Kingdom in my heart and through my heart.
Here is what Paul Miller wrote about ambiguity: Jesus’ ambiguity with us creates the space not only for him to emerge but us as well. If the miracle comes too quickly, there is no room for discovery, for relationship…The waiting that is the essence of faith provides the context for relationship. Faith and relationship are interwoven in dance…When God seems silent and our prayers go unanswered, the overwhelming temptation is to leave leave the story – to walk out of the desert and attempt to create a normal life. But when we persist in a spiritual vacuum, when we hang in there during ambiguity, we get to know God. (A Praying Life p190-192)
Oh would I not keep “attempting to create a normal life” by my measurable, tangible standards, but rather receive Life from the author and giver of it – on His terms, in His timing, by His power and with trust in His redemptive plan and not my own.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Luke 17:3