Universal Human Paradigm
Though naturally predisposed to function like ‘resistance machines’, Annie and I have several friends who’ve re-trained themselves to give themselves to their lives—especially when they’d prefer to hold back. I was with a dear friend and mentor at the moment the oncologist called with the diagnosis: chronic lymphocytic leukemia. CLL is a devastating disease—essentially cancer of the blood.
Still in his 40’s, it came as a complete shock.
We were at a convent in Kalamazoo conducting a character-development workshop that supports people to transform their ability to fulfill God’s unique purpose freely, passionately, and powerfully. Using revealing exercises, guided reflection, Socratic questioning, and focused discussions, participants discover beliefs, heretofore unexamined, that undermine their success in life, career, relationships, and ministry.
Stunned, I watched my friend absorb the blast of the diagnosis, remind himself why he was there in the first place, and give himself completely, generously, and enthusiastically for the forty people enrolled in our training.
Ennio was so invested in serving others that his very natural concerns for himself faded into the background. Though we talked and prayed frequently that week, I don’t actually know how he battled his own resistance. While remaining aware of the realities of his medical situation, the uncertainty it cast on his future, and gradually being informed about the treatment regimen that would be required, he threw himself into his life—and the lives of our participants—with the same exhilarating commitment I’d seen him do dozens of times before.
If not for his physical symptoms, which worsened dramatically each day, I don’t think any of them would have known what we knew. Ennio epitomizes what it means to “throw your body into the middle of the room, and see what God does with it.”
God did plenty with Ennio that week. And ever since.
Yesterday I was in Atlanta training pastors in CRM’s Awaken and Activate Workshops. As the name implies, Awaken is about awakening in Christians the calling of God to live Jesus’ goodness with those outside the Church. It’s great, cerebral stuff.
But in Activate, participants leap into action, connecting meaningfully with people outside the faith community with practical, meaningful, and beneficial results. The action is not theoretical or imaginary. It is real actual action.
So, transitioning from Awaken to Activate we moved effortlessly through the material, the exercises, and discussions. Then, as we approached the “Action Zone” the room locked down.
Our cooperative and congenial participants were suddenly confused…
It was time to DO SOMETHING—something completely new. It requiring they break through the inertia of church-focus and instead to phone or email a neighbor or co-worker outside the Church and invite her over for a meal. Or volunteer to serve in the community…to take “irreversible action” to serve and bless someone on the outside.
Firmly and skillfully, David identified the resistance in the room, re-enrolled the pastors in their vision to lead community-impacting churches by becoming community-impacting leaders…
and off they went—into the “Action Zone”—leaping one by one into the uncharted territory of unprecedented relationships holding eternal potential.
They threw themselves into the middle of the room… and God met them there!
Coaching distinctions #69.doc
Here are the four key distinctions of the “Universal Human Paradigm”:
1) You, as a human being are a “resistance machine”.
2) When life looks the way you prefer, you engage it.
4) The universal way you resist your own life is by withholding your participation from it.
The “it” in the sentence above is your life!
Why’s this important?
Because, your life needs you in it.
What if the circumstances that you find so aggravating have been provided by God for you to bring Christ into their midst?
What if the perplexities, unknowns, and conundra that surround you are there so those watching can see you standing valiantly—like Jennifer Lawrence’ character challenging the corruption of the political system in Hunger Games?
Sometimes God will beckon you into the burning building to guide to safety those trapped inside.
Imagine if you were a new believer living in Acts 8 “…great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.” [Act 8:1b-8]
The saints, surprised by the suddenly intense opposition, were driven from Jerusalem.
There’s no hint of them cowering in fear. Or hunkering down in private Christian enclaves. Or ditching their distinctive way of living in order to fit in.
They found communities of people needing Jesus. The Jesus they brought with them: his Good News, his healing, and his freedom-procuring deliverance!
Reading your Bible today, it’s easy to see that God used the diaspora to spread the life and love of Christ beyond Jerusalem and those of Jewish ethnicity living or visiting there. Today, we easily see how good it was that the persecution catapulted the believers to live as missionaries across the middle east.
See, when you’re in resistance, withholding your participation, those around you lose.
They miss out on the gift that you are.
The gift you bring.
Most of all, they miss Christ in you… the hope of glory. [Col 1:27]
Coaching distinctions #68.doc
We’re examining the “Universal Human Paradigm”.
Last time I described resisting my own life through more than a decade of our children’s adolescence. Pretending not to see the growing devastation in my home, repeatedly declaring: “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” and consuming myself with the aspects of life I felt I still could control, I kept myself and my heart far from the complexity of our teens’ stormy passage from children to adults.
The #1 sign you’re living in resistance: exhaustion!
Consider the emotional toll when you consume your vitality keeping yourself from the life God intended you to live… How much does it take to withhold your participation from the marriage, the work challenges, the medical realities that all beckon you to enter…like gravity on Newton’s apple.
No wonder it’s fatiguing!
So, when I notice that I’m tired, exhausted, burned out, I ask myself: What am I resisting?
Inevitably, I’ll uncover some aspect of my life—often somebody else’s behavior—that I don’t like, I’m bugged about, bothered by, consumed with.
And, with it, the all-encompassing exhaustion.
See, your life was meant for you to live. Just like the life of Paul, or Esther, or Jacob, of Mary. Your life needs you to give yourself fully. Engage unreservedly. And, as you do, to bring God’s provision with you… just like Paul, Esther, Jacob, and Mary.
To do this, we get to trust what we can’t see. Believe that God will show up…not while I patiently and timidly wait in the safety of the sidelines of my life, but when I leap into the midst of the chaos, trusting God to be with me.
Teddy Roosevelt put it this way: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Coaching distinctions #67.doc
We’re examining one of the most helpful insights on human behavior I’ve learned. The “Universal Human Paradigm”, was explained this way:
1) Human beings are “resistance machines”.
2) When life looks the way we prefer, we engage it.
3) And, when life doesn‘t look the way we prefer, we resist it.
4) The universal way that human beings resist life is by withholding their participation from it.
If you, like me, believe that God is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient—as the Bible illustrates—then consider who is the ultimate architect of your life’s circumstances. This isn’t to suggest you don’t have a choice.
You always do.
Yet, much of what surrounds us is beyond our control, even our influence.
I choose to believe that these are the provision of a loving God who “in all things works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Rom 8:28].
In other words, the life I have is the one God intends for me.
So, when I’m in resistance, I’m withholding my participation from the life I am meant to live!
I’m also clear that my life needs me. It needs me to be “all in”: participating as fully as I can.
Every single one.
The adolescent years for our six children were brutal for me. So much happened that I hadn’t anticipated, wasn’t prepared for, was shocked by, and felt was way out-of-bounds for the life I thought I was supposed to live.
For more than a decade, much of my life looked nothing like I preferred. Following the Universal Human Paradigm, I resisted…
I withheld my participation from my children, my family, my own life—immersing myself in seminary studies, my investment business, and pastoral ministry. I had more than enough to keep me busy. Busy and distracted from the barrage of calamities befalling our teens…many, at their own hands.
The more I persisted in resisting my life, the worse it got. Nothing resolved itself on its own.
One horrible night all this came to a head: a drug arrest and a fist fight with one of my own put me in the hospital.
It was then that I realized my life needed me.
I didn’t know what to do. But, I knew I had to be in. All in.
So, in the language of my mentor and friend Ennio Salucci: “I threw myself into the middle of the room”
…and there I found Jesus and his provision for me and my children waiting.
Coaching distinctions #66.doc