I have been reflecting recently on motivation, that which causes us to choose one path over another. We associates, and other church staff members, make many decisions every day about the direction of our ministry. When we choose to spend our time on project X instead of Y, we are guiding our ministry down a particular path.
An old book I recently discovered has been helping me with this reflection. While running errands with my family recently, I went to my local Goodwill and browsed the books – an activity that always reminds me of my high school days going through the discount cassettes looking for a great album. There among hundreds of forgotten titles and authors, I found a gem. I knew nothing of the book, there was a word in the title I had never seen before, but I knew the author. For 75 cents, tax included, I purchased a copy of Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri J. M. Nouwen.
In Lifesigns Nouwen writes, “Often fear has penetrated our inner selves so deeply that it controls, whether we are aware of it or not, most of our choices and decisions” (Nouwen 15). As an associate I agree. Fear is often the motivating factor behind our decision making processes. We fear disappointing our lead pastor, irritating our employment supervisory committee, losing our job, not pleasing God, losing the respect of our colleagues, or a simply the failure of living up to one’s definition of success. Rather than doing the daring thing, choose the benign which will guarantee to keep us in a safe, predictable place. So we choose to improve or recover programs, rather than initiate something we are not sure will fly.
But what do we have to fear?, Nouwen reminds us. We are loved deeply by our God, who invites us into his Kingdom. Nouwen challenges the reader to move out of the “house of fear” and into the “house of love.” In God’s Kingdom, the house of love, there is intimacy drawing us to one another, especially those in need, rather than seeing the other as a means to an end. In love there is fruitfulness (fecundity) rather than simple busyness. In love there is joy (ecstasy), rather than happiness which can be so fleeting.
I don’t want to continue to be motivated by fear in my life and ministry. I want to dwell in the house of love.
Nouwen, Henri J. M. Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective. New York: Doubleday, 1989. Print.