I remember like it was yesterday when I watched John Ortberg deliver a message about “shadow missions”. It was something like 7 years ago…but I can picture that room like I was there yesterday. Probably because the message hit me so much that day.
Shadow missions are those things in our lives that really seem right and good. However, they are just a degree or two off of the path that God really intends for us. Over time…the distance between the two grows greater and greater. Before we know it, we are way off of the target that God desires.
As he asked the listeners to think about our own shadow mission, I realized that I did not have one! I know…awesome right? Man was I ever arrogant! As I sat there and stewed in my own perceived righteousness…God decided to give me a swift kick in the butt. How did He do that? Well…John shared his shadow mission. When he shared his…my heart was instantly wrenched. I realized in that moment that my shadow mission was the same.
Self-idolization. Yep…that is me. I like myself. I like to place myself on a pedestal, or allow others to do it for me all while I hide behind false humility and phony reluctance to be lifted up. I enjoy the accolades. I love the attention. I want to be on top…or at least have people think I am on top. It feels right because it all revolves around ministry and doing things for the Kingdom of God. At first, you don’t even realize that something is not right. Often, we don’t realize something is wrong until it is too late and we are so far off the path God has for us that we can’t even find our way back.
Today, as we march through Lent, Colossians 3:17 presents itself. The passage reads:
Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
That is not always that easy. I think my default is to read that passage differently. Something like this: Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all so people recognize you and take all the credit for yourself. At least, that is how I used to think.
Over time, since that fateful day when Ortberg burst my bubble, I have learned to live differently. My false humility is becoming authentic humility and my phony reluctance…well…I just don’t act reluctant anymore. It took a shift in thinking for me. I had to see my own sinfulness. I was taking the glory and the recognition that God deserved for myself. It wasn’t easy and it is something that I will fight my entire life. That is how sin and temptation work. But, I have learned to fight that fight. I have learned to truly be humble. I have learned to give God the credit and the glory that He deserves (and only save a little for myself).
Does that mean I never fall victim to my shadow mission? No way! Just ask my wife. She sees it and she probably knows before anyone when I am sinking my teeth into the deliciousness that is self-idolization. But we are seeing it less and less every day because I have discovered something. When we allow God to be before us…the attention, the recognition, the adoration is much sweeter. It is sweeter because now it feels right.
What about you? What is that thing that pulls you just a bit off line from where God wants you? What is your shadow mission?