Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stubborn Passion

Once again "missional theologian" Tom Peters provides us with an important insight:

[There is] a Very Sensible Saying that I think is pure, unmitigated crap, in fact the World's Worst Advice: "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

As I said ... pure crap.

Forget "fold 'em."

Drop it from your vocabulary.

Excise it.

Bury it.

Stomp on its grave.

If you care, really care, really really care about what you are pursuing, well, then, pursue-the-hell-out-of-it-until-hell-freezes-over-and-then-some-and-then-some-more. And may the naysayers roast in hell or freeze in the Antarctic or bore themselves to death with the sound of their "statistically accurate" advice.

The smart people know when to give up. Most failures have the sense to sulk off and leave the stage to the super stars. But some are too stupid to give up.

Tom shares this paragraph from The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company, by David Price:

One of the curious aspects of Pixar's story is that each of the leaders was, by conventional standards, a failure at the time he came onto the scene. Lasseter landed his dream job at Disney out of college—and had just been fired from it. Catmull had done well-respected work as a graduate student in computer graphics, but had been turned down for a teaching position and ended up in what he felt was a dead-end software development job. Alvy Ray Smith, the company's co-founder, had checked out of academia, got work at Xerox's famous Palo Alto Research Center, and then abruptly found himself on the street. [Steve] Jobs had endured humiliation and pain as he was rejected by Apple Computer; overnight he had transformed from boy wonder of Silicon Valley to a roundly ridiculed has been.

Success is not guaranteed, at least not in the conventional understanding of success. But if we believe in the God of Abraham who "gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were," how can we ever give up?

Triumphalism has distorted our view of the biblical narrative.

We forget that

  • Jacob was a scheming cheater.
  • Gideon was a frightened nobody.
  • David was an obscure shepherd boy.
  • Peter was a sniveling coward.
  • Jesus was a total failure by any human standard.

We speed-read through the book of Job until we get to the "pay off":

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10).

We see Jesus as a deus ex machina figure who confidently acts out his role wearing his "costume" of "human flesh." Consequently, the crucifixion becomes little more than a theatrical special effect.

The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane fades into a shadowy prequel to the didactic moral: "Nevertheless, not my will but your will be done."

However, if Jesus was "tempted in every way just as we are," he must have experienced uncertainty and even self-doubt.

He endured opposition in ministry, despising the shame of being misunderstood and refused to allow the false expectations of his friends or the false allegations of his enemies to define who he was.

Philip Greenslade, A Passion for God's Story, p. 248

A servant is not greater than his or her master. We must follow the same path, if we are to be genuine disciples.

The way of the cross sometimes leads us into those places where all we can do is hold on. We can't see our way forward, we are confused that God isn't doing what we expect, and we can't see any meaning for all the pain and frustration.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come, p. 170

As Tom reminds us:

If you really really really really really care ... then there ain't no time to fold 'em until your last breath is drawn—and even that's too soon if you've bothered along the way to inflame others about your presumed Quixotic cause.

In the (doubtless not) immortal words of Tom Peters: "There's a time to hold 'em and a time to keep on holdin' 'em—if you really really really care."

From a kingdom perspective, it's about more than just passion:

We must always do what we know is right and true before God even if it doesn't seem as if it produces results.

Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi, Kingdom Come, p. 172

So it's not time to fold 'em, but it's time to go all in.

God's kingdom strategy sometimes feels like a long shot, or even an impossible dream. But he is the God of the unlikely and the impossible.

Pastor Rod

"Helping You Become the Person God Created You to Be"

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