Back in 2011 we found ourselves looking for a new job. Another couple, dear friends of ours, found themselves in the same position also, so we were on the job hunt together. It was during this time that I noticed something interesting. I called it “filling in the gaps”.
Here’s what I saw: One of us (myself, R.C., Toby, or Brenda) would find a job opportunity, usually online. We would find out as much about it as we could and then we would “fill in the gaps” (the information we didn’t have) with what we wanted it to be. We filled in the gaps with our “wish dreams”.
So, for the few days between finding the job and actually going to the interview, this job would be our dream job. Why? Because we filled in the gaps with what we wanted it to be. The interview would usually begin to curb our enthusiasm as more gaps were filled with the actuality instead of our wish dreams. So we came to the first crossroad:
Now that we’ve realized this isn’t actually our dream job, are we gonna take it or leave it? (Supposing it’s offered to us.)
But that’s not the end of “filling in the gaps”. You see, the interview has filled in some more of the gaps, but not all of them. You never really know what a job is like, or what the work environment is like, until you actually spend some time working there. So even if you accept the job, there are still lots of unknowns.
R.C. and I have had many different jobs over the course of our marriage. Every single one of them has proven that no job is perfect. Every single job comes with struggles and issues. Every single job at times is not the job you want. As we get more and more into the job, we have fewer and fewer gaps and therefore are coming closer and closer to actuality and further and further from our wish dream. So now we come to the second crossroads:
Now that we’ve realized that this job is even further from what we thought it was going to be, do we stay or do we go?
That is my theory of “filling in the gaps”. Why did I tell you this today? Because this theory doesn’t just fit with work. It actually fits even better with church life. I have seen this time and time again. People read books, listen to podcasts, and go to conferences to find out about Organic Church Life. Then, we fill in the gaps with our wish dreams. We begin looking for this church life, or convince others to try this out with us, and then we’re on our way. (This is the time between finding a job listing and going to the interview.)
After a little while, we begin to realize that this isn’t quite what we thought it was going to be. The “gaps” aren’t being filled in the way we expected and we are a little disappointed. Maybe a lot disappointed. We are now at the first crossroad:
Are we gonna let go of our expectations that have been crushed by more of the gaps being filled in, or are we gonna give up because it isn’t what we expected?
Some give up. Some decide to lay down expectations. For people who let go of expectations, the next step is usually asking for some outside help in the form of a church worker/planter/helper/Idon’tcarewhatyoucallit. After months, maybe even years, of waiting for everyone to get on the same page, finally some outside help is coming.
And here comes the second crossroad, because, you see, the outside help doesn’t fill in the gaps how we expected. Maybe the outside help takes a little more control than we are comfortable with, or suggests ideas that we’re not sure about, or seems to be taking the group backwards from where we thought we were.
Once again, are we gonna let go of our expectations, sometimes hidden ones that we didn’t even know were there, and give the Lord a chance, or are we gonna give up?
I can promise you that if you embark on the adventure of authentic church life, you will become, at some point, very disappointed. Without a doubt, some of the gaps will not be filled in how you hoped. It might even look, at times, like a failure. But that doesn’t deter our Lord. He’s so capable that not even failure can hinder Him. I even believe that sometimes He orchestrates “failure” to prove Himself even more. Hello, the cross of Christ???
Here’s my encouragement: when the gaps aren’t filling in the way you hoped or expected, then let go of your hopes and expectations. Let go of your wish dreams. When we do, we actually open up room for God’s hopes and expectations to come in. His ways truly are other than ours.
Here’s my warning: when the gaps aren’t filling in the way you hoped or expected, be careful if you go looking for other ways to fill them in. Ways which look more like what you wanted them to look like. It’s highly possible you’ll just end up with something made by and for man. Something made in your image, not God’s.
Have you ever found yourself “filling in the gaps”? I don’t know anyone who could honestly answer no to that question. 😉
*I’ll be posting a special post tomorrow with another way that we “fill in the gaps”.