You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Exodus 19:4 NIV
There is quite a difference in the two objectives.
The Hebrews mostly wanted out of the brickyards, but didn’t really want out of Egypt. They thoughtfully considered God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, but were rather turned off by the fact that the price tag for peace was, as usual, war.
God’s objective was relationship. He did not bring them out of Egypt to ease the burden of slavery. He did not bring them out simply to facilitate getting to the Promised Land. His objective was to bring them to Himself.
It is a challenge to meld vision and relationship in a single life. Our cultural stereotypes abound with portraits of relational groups, and for the most part, the stereotypes portray the highly relational groups as being less productive.
On the other hand, when we look at our builders, whether in athletics, the marketplace, academia or religious circles, most of the movers and shakers are not overly known for their general love-ability.
There are some exceptions in the entertainment industry, where a few high performing stars are also wonderful humans with many sustained, intimate, peer relationships. But most of the high dollar artists are legendary for the kinks in their personalities, not their relationships.
Individually there are so many layers to the intimacy vs. builder paradigm. Some redemptive gifts are more naturally prone to one end of the spectrum or the other. Design. So does that mean that Prophets and Givers and Rulers get a pass on God’s expectation of intimacy, just because building comes so easily for them?
Or do Servants, Teachers and Mercy gifts get to drift through life enjoying horizontal or vertical intimacy, while leaving little in terms of a legacy when they go home?
Are the Exhorters the only ones expected to love everyone and God and change the world in a single lifetime?
And what about the impact of your family of origin? I grew up in the shadow of a formidable warrior/builder. My dad single handedly planted more churches in Brazil than all the rest of the missionaries from his denomination did in Brazil over 60 years.
I spell formidable as “BILL BURK.”
He understandably left an imprint on the peeps who shared his table three times a day and who went on lots and lots of day trips with him.
His first born trains managers for a chain of restaurants. A builder of builders.
I am second born. An obsessive compulsive builder.
The third born has spent the last 35 years leading a high tech team that helps build missiles and satellites. He builds high speed, extraordinarily competent technical teams.
The fourth born is a pastor effectively building a church in a community that is massively dominated by the Mormon church. He is effective!
The fifth born is a former missionary, and currently the wife of a church planting pastor. She is a builder of legacies with 14 kids all her own and counting.
The baby of the family is the only one who has not really gotten traction yet in terms of building.
Admittedly, we are not the most relational family in the world. Kind of like Dad.
The apples don’t fall far from the tree.
Then there was a couple in the church I used to pastor. Their 40 year old kids stubbed their toes in what I thought was a minor way, and mom and dad were in the car in a couple of hours, heading a thousand miles away to help the kids.
Talk about a tightly relational family! I was stunned that a 50 cent problem generated a $5K response from the parents.
I was also dumbfounded that the 40 year old kiddo who was much loved and who loved back couldn’t get traction in life. Couldn’t build a square out of Legos.
That is our community. We have every point on the spectrum from the builder Prophets to the intimate Mercies. We have the latch key kids who learned survival skills on the street and can build more with less but don’t trust anyone, anywhere. We have the Baby Princess who couldn’t make pancakes for breakfast with a box of mix and a life coach at her elbow but sure loves everyone and everything (well, except for work, anyway).
That is our reality.
And God’s reality is that He wanted Israel to come apart from the (forced) building projects of that OCD Ruler nation call Egypt, to spend time with Him. To learn intimacy. To connect with Him as a personalized God, not the distant God of their 400 years-dead ancestors. And to do that, He ditched the building for the most part.
Let me put it in our vernacular. Do you realize God put THE ENTIRE NATION on welfare for 40 years? Deliberately. They had to dabble a bit to gather manna, and there was a short, two year building project with the Tabernacle, but it only occupied a handful of the labor force.
Forty years of welfare so people could learn to be intimate with God (and maybe each other, although that seems to be stretching it a bit).
Now here is the kicker. OUT OF THE INTIMACY SEASON came a nation of warriors. And the lead warrior was Joshua, Mister Mercy Himself, who preferred to abdicate his responsibilities as Moses’ right-hand man and just hang with God at the tent, doing intimacy.
And the ultimate One Man Wrecking Crew, Elijah, was sidelined (on welfare, again) for three years before he unleashed a warring and building project that was historic.
At the end of the day, there is no algebraic formula for blending our lives with our culture and our gifts. There are only a vast number of unique journeys.
But . . . we must anchor ourselves in the reality that God holds both objectives equally. We ARE the Bride of Christ, which is an intensely intimate concept.
And we ARE the sons of God, co-heirs with the King of Kings, participating with Him in bringing every kingdom in the world under His Lordship.
It behooves us to ponder the paradox and the paradigm, and not simply slide into what comes easiest for us.
Copyright June 2016 by Arthur Burk
From home, after a weird half week of neither building nor much intimacy