Note: To understand the context of this blog post, check out the podcast for the message "Understanding Your Shadow Mission".
I believe that the message I spoke on Sunday was a defining one. I believe this because its content has become a filter through which I see my life. All of us are create for a life-defining mission, and all of us struggle against our shadow mission. I know I have!
Understanding that we have a shadow mission that steals away from living a purposeful, fulfilling life is one thing. Being able to identify it is a whole 'nuther challenge! John Ortberg wrote an essay, "Overcoming your shadow mission" that has really helped me in working this out. Here are some helpful things you can do:
1. Create space to work this out.
Our lives are full, loud and busy. We are so easily drawn to the urgent that something important like this can be drowned out. In this space pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide this process.
2. Ask: When have I failed? When have I felt shame? When have I known something wasn't the best for me but I still chased after it anyway?
Your past can be a great indicator of when you've said, "yes" to your shadow mission. Hindsight can be difficult to swallow, but it can be an antidote to your future.
- Here's a thought: if you can't name any examples in your life regarding those questions, pride might be the issue here. I know that for a long time I was too proud to acknowledge my failings, and it took a very difficult season to see how my pride was keeping me in my shadow mission.
3. Look through this list of shadow missions:
- Just give me home, health and wealth.
- Busy, busy, busy
- I don't care who's in charge - as long as it's me.
- It's all about me.
- Maintaining hidden addictions.
- I'll think about it tomorrow.
- Looking nice by avoiding conflict.
Do any of these ring true for you?
4. Take all your reflections and bring it down to one sentence.
Here's an example John Ortberg gave in his essay.
Sentence: I fall into living my shadow mission when I get so busy that accomplishing tasks becomes more important to me than loving God and my neighbour.
Catchphrase: To-do list all done.
One word: Busyness
You might find that you have a few shadow missions in operation. For now, just choose one to focus on.
5. Share this with someone who will keep you accountable.
The fact that your shadow mission has been in operation in your life without you knowing about it means that it is likely in a blind spot. To deal with stuff that are in our blind spots, we often need others to help us spot it. This is where a caring, church family can play such an important role in your life. I find that it is in the context of my church family that I find people that genuinely care for me, and whom I can trust. These people become pivotal when I want to see change in my life in areas that are sticky and hard to change. Have you got someone like this you can be accountable to?
Releasing your shadow mission and saying, "yes!" to God's mission for your life is going to be difficult at first. But this is where faith comes in. If you trust Scripture and know that God has such a depth of love for you, you can trust that His plan for you is the best one you can say, "yes!" to. My prayer is that as you journey in your mission, you'll find the more and better life Christ has for you!