From Good To Great
At church this morning someone asked how I was doing. Having lived on the island for a while now, instinctively responded with 'not bad'. Having been brought up in a more outwardly optimistic culture, I have adopted the typical British response.
But I started to think about what I was communicating. What does it mean to say, 'not bad'? Not bad - my wife didn't leave me? Not bad - I wasn't diagnosed with terminal illness? Not bad - an F5 tornado didn't destroy my house? What does this phrase mean - that this week, my 'badness' did not have a place in my life? It's good to live a bad-free life, but I humbly suggest there is more.
The next time you ask someone, 'how's it going?', how would you like this response: 'Amazingly! I just had the most awesome week I can remember! It was extraordinary!' Our ingrained skepticism would wonder what our interlocutor had been smoking. At least here on the island - it's not normal to be that optimistic.
And this brings me to the point: as followers of Jesus, our lives simultaneously play out on two plains that I call the objective and the subjective. Objectively, 'our life is hidden with Christ in God' (Colossians 3:3). This is the perpetual objective reality of our spiritual condition: because through Christ we have been united with God, we are perpetual participants in untold blessings.
It's like being on an airplane that goes up above the clouds. Regardless how bad the weather is down below, it's always sunny above. And because we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), we have unconditional access to perpetual spiritual blessings. Spiritually, it really is always a sunny day. So the accurate answer a Christian should give to the 'how are you doing' question is, 'Blessed beyond measure! I'm actually doing so well, I can't put it into words!'.
And yet, when somone asks how we're doing, they are not typically asking about the objective status of our participation in God's Trinitarian life; they are asking about the subjective dimension of our human experience. And the truth is that - even for believers - our lives are marked by ups and downs. We have good days/bad days, good weeks/bad weeks. The subjective dimension of our lives is very susceptible to experiential fluxuations.
Good To Great
The key to a good to great life is learning how to allow our objective status in Christ to shape the perspective by which we interpret our subjective experience. We tend to do the opposite: rooted in the hear and now, we intrepret our lives based on temporary circumstances. Greatness in God is experienced with the objective reality of who we are in Christ breaks through the clouds of personal experience to illumine our lives. We experience greatness when we live in the light of who we are in God.
Are there practical things we do to move our lives from not bad to great? Yes. As outlined in his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins suggest that finding the intersection between what you love, what you're really good at, and what is financially fruitful, and making that your life focus - this can help to give your life traction. There are many principles they outline for companies that also pertain to individuals. The greatness on offer through the gospel, however, is much more substantive and less ephemeral than the greatness Collins describes. Some of the 'great' companies he describes are not great anymore.
So - the next time someone asks how you're doing, feel free to express some objective reality: 'I'm blessed beyond measure! This was an extraordinary week because the God who created the univeristy spent time fellowshipping with me by His Holy Spirit!' In addition to being true, that's also a great conversation starter.
However, if you feel too self-conscious to step outsid the comfort zone of island speak, feel free to answer the question with, 'Not too bad'. But as you do, be sure to offer a slight smile and a twinkle in your eye, just to let your heavenly Father know that you remember how much He has done for you.