I hope my editor isn’t reading this. He won’t be keen on the idea that the sixth chapter of my book is now 6800 words, especially when we’d agree that each chapter would be 6000 words in length. Can I defend my indiscretion by saying that one cannot possible hope to write about the kingdom of Jesus Christ in so few words? The proverbial too-big bite of content: I’ve darn bit it off, chewed it up, and swallowed it.
But I will say that “Chapter 6: Project Kingdom: Good News to Inspire Desire” has been a good chapter to write. And I guess if I were to say it most simply, I’d argue this: when we pray, your kingdom come, your will be done, we are being formed into the desire for God’s rule in our lives.
Don’t be fooled: this is an extremely dangerous way to pray – because kingdom will involve you. Frederick Buechner says this in his book, Whistling in the Dark:
'Thy will be done' is what we are saying. That is the climax of the first half of the prayer. We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want but what God wants. We are asking God to make manifest the holiness that is now mostly hidden, to set free in all its terrible splendour the devastating power that is not mostly under restraint. 'Thy kingdom come. . . on earth' is what we are saying. And if that were suddenly to happen, what then? What would stand and what would fall? Who would be welcome in and who would be thrown the Hell out? Which if any of our most precious visions of what God is and of what human beings are would prove to be more or less on the mark and which would turn out to be phony as three-dollar bills? Boldness indeed. To speak those words is to invite the tiger out of the cage, to unleash a power that makes atomic power look like a warm breeze.”
Praying for God’s kingdom to come is to effectively surrender yourself to the divine draft: you’re going to be plucked up for service, and this is going to force you from your comfortable familiarities into the realm of risk.
Which isn’t the same thing as saying you’re on your way towards doing something grand. In fact, quite the opposite. You are, in actual fact, willing yourself to become small.
That’s the way of Jesus. That’s the method of kingdom. Down is up. Least is greatest.
And calling is more ordinary and inconspicuous than you originally are inclined think.
Here’s an example, a story I haven’t told and can’t fully tell because it isn’t my own.
It belongs to my nephew. And I’m sure there will be time to tell it more fully and more completely – later.
His father – my brother – died when he was only two. I tell more of that story here if you’re interested in more background.
I suppose you can imagine that losing one’s father - in that way and so young – wounds a person deeply, profoundly.
And we’ve watched my nephew grow up into that woundedness. How long have I wanted hope written into those places of pain? His whole life, I think I have been praying for redemption, which is to say that I have asked this of God:
Jesus Christ, make something good of all this evil!
Last summer and into the fall, our family began praying about having my nephew come and live with us when he graduated from high school. Not knowing exactly what that would look like or what the future held for him, we extended to him this invitation – which he accepted with the blessing of his mother.
Home had been providentially arranged long before he had the news.
Stomach cancer. She has two months to live.
My nephew’s mother died on April 4. He is now alone – and not. Because tomorrow, two of the children and I drive to West Virginia to watch him graduate from high school and to bring him here to Toronto.
How good is God? This is something I cannot help but ask. I know we live in a world that is ridiculously tortured by senseless evil. Moore, Oklahoma – this is our most recent example. And I, like everyone else, sometimes wonder where God is in all the mess. Why does he seem to be standing idly by?
But my nephew’s story reminds me that he is not indifferent to our pain. I think God is in the midst of answering some of the prayers we have long been praying for my nephew. I think he’s going to do something good. And I trust him, even as I feel ill-equipped for the task of participating in his redemptive work.
The chapter on kingdom is drafted, on the eve of leaving to get my nephew. It serves to remind me: live into these words.
By the unfailing, steadfast, persistent grace of God, I think I’ll try.