“Jesus said to all: ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
“Just as we all have a mission – a way of contributing to God’s kingdom that we were designed and gifted for – we also have what might be called a shadow mission. My shadow mission is what I will do with my life if I drift on autopilot. It consists of the activities toward which I will gravitate if I allow my natural temptations and selfishness to take over. Everybody has a shadow mission.”
(from John Ortberg’s book, When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box)
These quotes remind me that, as Christians, we aren’t allowed to do what we want to do with our lives. If we truly wish to follow Jesus, then we must do the will of God – not our own will. This, obviously, can be a tough pill to swallow, especially for those of us in the West who are taught to be individuals, to go after our dreams. There’s nothing we can’t have or do!
For me, these quotes also bring up the issues of karma and reincarnation. Ortberg’s idea of a “shadow mission” needs some sort of explanation. I agree that we each have a shadow mission (maybe more than one), but where does it come from? Perhaps it comes from past lives where we developed certain skills that our mind/heart/soul instinctively wants to duplicate. Perhaps it comes from choices we’ve made in the past.
Here’s an example: My “shadow mission” seems to be living the life of a hermit. I feel strongly called to live a life of silence and solitude focused on prayer and penance for the salvation of the world. I have been fighting with this “call” for ten years. Where could such a calling originate if not in a past life? If it were merely a figment of my imagination it would have faded away by now. If I chose to, I could manipulate the circumstances of my life to become a hermit. (I actually did so in 2007 – with disastrous results). If such were my true calling in this life, however, then God would arrange everything for me to follow the call. If I ignore God and just do what I want to do, then as Jesus says, I’m actually losing my life rather than saving it. The key is to willingly lose my life (give up trying to attain my dream/goal of becoming a hermit) to be a true follower of the Lord.
Some years ago, I realized that nobody I know is living the life they would like to be living. (I’m a yoga teacher but I want to be a hermit!) There’s always something “wrong” or “missing” or “unfulfilled.” For Christians, this is “the cross” we are asked to carry. Those who wish to follow Jesus choose to carry the cross daily – with joy. Not in sorrow or anger or resignation. With joy. Is it easy? Of course not. Does it get easier? I hope so.