Only 5 sessions into Catalyst Dallas, through the pre-labs, and I’ve already been wrecked. Maybe I was damaged to begin with, but I don’t remember this much inner wrestling this soon into the previous two Catalyst’s I’ve been too. It probably more a reflection of my own spiritual-mental state at the moment than anything Catalyst’s done different but it felt different today somehow. Or maybe it’s the abscence of Grumpy Jim and a bumpy ride in a rented Mustang… or the acute Rodd deficiency our group is currently experiencing.
Scot McKnight opened the first session talking about the need for us to “paint the leaves” (ref. to Tolkien’s “Leaf By Niggle”), to paint the small, insignificant details of our dreams and leave the significance to Jesus. As he talked about the way Jesus’ parables subvert our grandiosity, our values, our plans… this was the first point where I found myself slammed to the mat. How often do I miss the details of God’s dream for my life because I’m too busy trying to see the whole tree? What are the dreams I’m painting in the Kingdom?
Since I’m so deeply saturated in the hip-hop culture (cough-cough), I was excited to go to Lecrae’s lab in the next session (no joke about that part, the guy is pretty awesome). His message was to engage your city, love your city, and work to bring about redemption and rehabilitation. I loved how he began his lab by saying he wasn’t going to rap, he isn’t a great speaker, and he isn’t very entertaining without a beat track. His lab, however was deeply reflective of Acts 17 and the idea of Paul being “provoked in His Spirit.” He didn’t just walk away disgusted with the sin he saw, but sought to redeem and rehabilitate – to reconcile and push back the darkness.
In the midst of what has kind of been a dry time for me, I almost opted for a safer alternative during the next lab session, but ultimately went to Jon Acuff’s lab talking about his new book Quitter. He talked about “closing the gap between your day job and your dream job.” I love youth ministry, and the last year has seen some huge strides with a number of my students, and I’m really excited to see what God is going to do with them/us next… but I’ve had to face a pretty large gap between my day job and my dream job recently. He talked about defining your dream as the first step to closing that gap, and I probably haven’t done that very well to this point (or maybe I have and not admitting it is a way to let myself off the hook). Dreaming is a process of recover, not just discovery: What have I done that I loved? What passion have I lost? Just as Acuff’s humor had me laughing, I found myself on the mat again, choke slammed by the thought that “maybe the desert road is a gift from a loving Father.” I’m tired of being patient. Thankfully, his next statement was that wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy – you can’t wrestle from a distance.
Pete Wilson’s lab was on transformational leadership and focused on Joshua’s faithful reliance on God even when it didn’t seem to make sense. He talked about how transformational leadership always requires more than you have, requires you to avoid the path of least resistance, requires God sized obedience not me sized solutions, and always relies on God promises (not on answers). I loved the thought that “every opportunity has an expiration date” and missing out will often cost more than messing up. So stop playing it safe, stop hiding, and choose to be with God.
The theme of hiding was one that stood out to me today. In several instances, I found myself being challenged – How am I hiding? Why don’t I just trust and do what He’s telling me to do? Am I still consecrated to Jesus, or am I just doing what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years because I’m comfortable with it? This last thought of consecration was the crux of Mark Batterson’s message in the last session, which had me thinking back to the first Catalyst Lab I attended two years ago in Los Angeles. Then, he seemed to ditch his notes in response to God’s prompting to talk about Numbers 11, where God miraculously provided what His grumbling people really didn’t deserve. It was a great session that I still remember vividly. After 2 years of simmering, the message to live in a place of complete dependence on a God who is big enough to do what He says He will do was just as convicting and encouraging.
I just wonder if I’ll even be able to get up off the mat tomorrow…