Agency

In this story we are telling, we have agency. God calls us to be his intimate allies, his ambassadors in the world. But allies and ambassadors aren't just lackeys; they think for themselves. The common Christian self-image of a sheep, a servant or "clay in the hands of the potter" is incomplete. 

Sometimes our churches work so hard to encourage obedience to law of God that they leave little room for intimacy with the Spirit of God. This week, I was reading Thomas Merton's treatise on spiritual direction for religious and came across this sentence:

We should not flee from responsibility, and we should not make such a fetish out of spiritual direction that, even though we are mature and responsible clerics, we refuse to move an inch without being "put under obedience" — in other words without someone else assuming responsibility for us. 

We have agency. It is not usurping God to use it; it is glorifying him. Like a son, it disappoints God when we don't rise to opportunities to reflect him well without being told. 

For a nice, clean-cut church boy, this can be a hard lesson to learn. If you make a habit of obedience, you can also make a habit of acquiescence. You can live half your life without making a hard decision — college, major, job, home, even spouse can all be chosen from "approved lists", from a pattern of living up to expectations. How many coming-of-age stories have we heard about this? How many more must we hear to realize the importance of claiming agency?

The story worth writing — the Christian who is serious about his commission — takes initiative. He leaves Ur, risks death in the face of the giant, sails to Cyprus, dances before the ark. He takes actions that are his own idea and reflect his unique identity and calling. 

It is not the mark of a mature Christian that he must always be told what to do. 

Ryan SandersComment