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John Mark Comer Ruined My Life
I woke up this week and realized John Mark had ruined my life. I went from a schedule-busting Bay Area life to a calm calendar in the wilderness of the North West. All because five years ago on a San Francisco Sunday morning in June, John Mark Comer gave a sermon entitled Hurry: The Great Enemy of the Spiritual Life.
In an oratory more the speed of a Steve Jobs keynote than a Sunday sermon, John Mark unloaded this line and lodged it in my head:
One of our key tasks in our apprenticeship to Jesus is learning to live into our potential and our limitations. We live in a culture that wants to transgress our limitations…
While John Mark would go on to allude to my future chopping wood in the forest, the seeds were planted and I had questions sprouting. It was from this day I began filling paper notebooks processing all the questions that came with considering my potentials and limitations. Was I living up to my potential? Are the days of my life a sacrifice to a culture uninterested in my actual potential and truly transgressing on my limitations?
Aside from prophetic insights about Russian aggression, this podcast episode introduced me to Information Colonization. Not just boats landing on beaches but ideas implanted in our scrolling and swipes that are establishing enclaves from entertainment.
Soft power is a greater threat to my own life of discipleship to Jesus... The serpent comes to Eve with soft power. Not a stick but an idea… The venom is the idea.
Had I been colonized? Had my dreams been hijacked before I could have even dreamt them? And were they formed for someone else or me? How many of us believe we just need more time or more money to make our dreams reality when we don’t even know where our dreams are coming from and whose reality we are in? We aren’t in the garden, we're deep in the weeds. There is an inertia keeping us in the orbit of our immediate.
The Pandemic changed our gravity and as things came to a halt, my wife and I had time to consider how we spent our time. Our Silicon Valley salaries were gone along with hopes of buying a house in our home state. Still, in the death of this dream we began to consider our home in time and not a place.
I Am Not A Machine (from Garden City)
There is something machine-like about building systems and writing software; it almost at times feels inhumane. It is painfully ironic in cities and counties named after saints, an empire of soulless inhumanity has risen. Everyone I know in the San Francisco Bay Area who has been around a while has a personal story about burnout, abuse, or at least a hospital trip that was stress induced. Myself included for all three.
With our Californian dreams behind us, I returned to this idea from Garden City:
What does God make holy?
This is intriguing. You would think that after creating the world, God would make a holy space — a mountain or a temple or a shrine. After all, every other religion has a holy space. Islam has Mecca. Hinduism has the Ganges River. Paganism has Stonehenge. Baseball has Wrigley Field.
But this God doesn’t have a holy space; he has a holy time — the Sabbath. This God isn’t found in the world of space — in a temple, on top of a mountain, at a spring, around a statue or a monument. He’s found in the world of time.
It’s not every day someone adds a whole new dimension to your belief system. Time is holy. Our participation in time is holy. In light of this, I had to ask myself am I a brick laying slave in Egypt or a free farmer in the promised land? And if I can choose, which one do I want to be?
A month into our new home among the mountains, forests, and lakes, of the Pacific North West we joined our church for a service day. Eight inches of snow had fallen the night before so the Californian in me was curious if we were still on. We were. Now I was sliding on the roof of a single foster mom’s barn clearing snow and repairing sheet metal with my new friend Kyle.
Bum freezing, unpaid, potential.
John Mark Comer you ruined my life for the better man. Instead of working twelve hours a day with an hour or more commute on each end, only meeting God sometimes on the weekends, I now live in the forest with my family and friends. We enjoy meals together and our kids growing older one a day at a time. My potential and limitations feel more like notes on a staff than a jackhammer on quicksand. My God and I both know I am not a machine and commit time to converse daily.
So maybe John Mark this is what you’re into? Making ruins out of the cathedrals that are our calendars to a culture that doesn’t care. Who knew slowing down could be something sacred? I guess all that is left to say is thank you.
This essay is the fifth and final entry in a series of works for Write of Passage. I can not say enough good things about this cohort based course. For your insightful feedback on this essay, thank you Oscar Obregon, Elizabeth Edwards, Alan Hibbard, Chris Wong, Mak Rahman, Charlie Bleecker, Sandra Yvonne, Rachael Tiss, and Michelle Varghese. A special thank you to Grace Sydney Smith for writing her own piece on John Mark’s work and for the hours spent in Zoom sessions together helping me assemble this essay.
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