When my wife and I first started talking about our impending sabbatical from our pastoral duties at our church, we made the decision that this two-month period should include not only time for rest from the demands of vocational pastoring, but also a season to think critically about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and to see what the Lord might reveal to us as we got quiet and still. One of my weaknesses is in reading books; not in the mechanics of reading, but the time required to both read and process the material. So, as one of my personal adventures in critical thinking and evaluation during this sabbatical, I have compiled a list of books I am attempting to complete. Anne and I chose books that deal with personal development, theology, preaching, and church health; two books in each category. I chose my first book because I thought it would be an “easy read” since it didn’t have a lot of technical jargon or big theological concepts. But, what I found in Gordon MacDonald’s award-winning book Ordering Your Private World was not an easy read, but a myriad of personal implications that I was forced to critically evaluate. A man’s “private world” is, as MacDonald puts it, the “private part of life where we know ourselves best of all; that is where self-esteem is forged, where basic decisions about motives, values, and commitments are made, where we commune with our God.” And, while it seems most people have their public world in order, many of us have a private world that is very disorganized and out of order. My private world is definitely in need of order and organization. It is, by contrast, very different from the private world of the One whom I claim to follow and serve, into Whose image I yearn to be molded and shaped.
Thus began my season of critical thinking! And, it was only the preface of the book!!
I’m not going to write out some kind of detailed summary of the book…if you’re interested, here’s a great one by fellow blogger Jason Gianotti (One Grip Higher). I began reading the book kind of tongue in cheek, I suppose. I mean, what was he going to say that all the other time-management-type authors haven’t already said? I expected him to talk about taking a sabbath, the importance of journaling, and including unwavering, uncompromising family time in your schedule…and he did. But what I did NOT expect was the reminder of Jesus’ example throughout the book, partially through MacDonald’s intentional examples, and partially through the work of the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus throughout. I eventually found myself reading the book, not as much for self development, but to find how Jesus walked out the five areas MacDonald uses as the framework for ordering our private worlds: motivation, use of time, wisdom and knowledge, spiritual strength, and restoration. I walked away from the book with Jesus’ example revealing in me both my own short comings and His desire to equip me for real change.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had never really thought much about how Jesus intentionally ordered His private world, though in theory I would have assumed that He did. I had forgotten how often Jesus had enough time for ministry and worship, or how well He knew His mission…so much so that public opinion and a large number of “good things” didn’t interfere with Him investing time in the BEST things. The more I read MacDonald’s book, I realized that having an ordered private world was more than just some kind of good business practice or model for life. It was the very picture of our Savior who had a huge mission with innumerable demands placed on Him, yet was never anxious or in a hurry. We never see Jesus working at a frantic pace. What we DO see in the life of Jesus is a man of certainty; a man who knew who He was, knew His calling, and then stuck to His mission. Surrounded by multitudes of people and needs, He was able to pour Himself into a dozen men, spend quality time with the Father, answer critics, and still minister to the needs of the crowds without being flustered or burned out. And, in the end, when He was about to lay down His life, He fulfilled His destiny of dying on the cross with courage and confidence. Once the issue was settled in the Garden of Gethsemane in prayer, it was settled in Jesus’ heart and mind. This is the picture of a man with an ordered private world. And, it’s the example of how we, as sons of God, are called to live in a world full of critics, crazy demands, and pressure from the world system that wants to snuff out the light of the Gospel.
Now, MacDonald’s book is full of many people and examples to demonstrate his points. And, while there is some value and encouragement in seeing how other biblical characters and the men and women of our age live out the principles of an ordered private world, I am only able to find the power to live them out and change when I see them in the life of Jesus. Somehow, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, as I behold Jesus (not David or Moses or Abraham or Paul) I am changed into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). So, I personally appreciated and capitalized on the moments He brought me to Jesus.
Normally these types of books leave me feeling ill equipped to move forward with needed change in whatever areas of my life require attention, whether it’s time management, motivation, etc. But, I didn’t walk away feeling guilty or condemned with this book. I actually walked away in wonder…in awe of how even more amazing Jesus is. And how, as His disciple, He desires to teach me how to order my private world, not just for my own personal benefit, but for the benefit of the Kingdom of God.
Lord, teach me how to come to you to truly receive and understand rest. Teach me how to take on YOUR yoke so I can learn from YOU.
“Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.” Mat 11:28-30 NKJV