Vol 2:18 Missional Awakenings: Being Aware of God

Years ago I watched the 1990 film Awakenings starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. The film tells the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer, who, in 1969, discovers beneficial effects of the then-new drug L-Dopa. In administering it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, they awakened after decades of being catatonic and begin to encounter a strange new world (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Awakenings)

I have discovered people in churches being awakened as well when they finally discover what it means to be involved with God in God’s mission. A student in one of my courses I teach on being missional, interrupted me one day in class half way through the semester and asked, “So, it’s not about me, it’s about God?” To which I responded, “Yes!” She asked the question two or three more times to which I responded with a resounding, “Yes!” It sunk in. She understood. She got it. She began to understand that mission is about what God is doing in the world and not about what we are up to in the world – that being saved or elected by God is more than getting a ticket to heaven – it is about being invited by God to participate with God in God’s redemptive mission – being co-laborers with God.

Recently, I have heard stories shared with me from people with whom I have been sharing what it means to be missional, for them to finally come to a place of discovery about what God is doing in them and in the world. They come to a realization that God has done and continues to do something for them, but that our response is not merely to do something for God, but rather it is about opening ourselves to see where God is active all around us and beginning to participate with God in God’s redemptive mission. It is great to witness the missional awakening that happens as persons express with excitement their seeing God in real and different ways and the freedom that following the Spirit of God brings.

Missional awakening helps set people free from being anxiety-ridden in trying to do the right thing for God. It brings about a real-time encountering of God as we go about living out our lives. Rather than God being relegated to mere cognitive belief, God becomes real and personal and it becomes pretty evident that those who have been awakened see the world in whole new ways – through God’s eyes.

My missional awakening came about five years ago. I was reading the missional literature and I was getting my understanding around it – but I came to discover, not just with my head, but my heart, that God indeed was the initiator and catalyst behind God’s mission. That deep realization began to enable me to be free to be who God made me to be as one who finds joy in freely participating with what God is unfolding everywhere I look. God is indeed active in every human life in the world and actually beginning to see that gives me a whole new perspective as I engage those God brings into my life each and every day.

Rather, than my rushing around keeping my own agenda, I am growing to take the time to be sensitive to what the Spirit of God is saying to me, to what the Spirit of God prompts me, whom the Spirit of God causes me to notice. Rather than these persons and situations being distractions, these are the re-orienting of my daily life so that my living becomes more and more a participation in what God is up to in the world – it truly is an awakening.

Whereas in the film, Awakenings, the L-Dopa only had temporary effects, the patients began to revert back to their catatonic state, those of us who come to a place in our lives where we yield ourselves to Christ’s Spirit, we come to discover that the missional awakening we encounter transforms our lives in such a way that we never can go back to the way we once were – and we are eager for others to experience the same reality.

Dare we surrender our need to control our lives and submit ourselves to the Spirit’s moving in us so that we all can experience a missional awakening as well? It is my prayer that we are open enough for God to enable us to be led by God and engaged with God in God’s mission. To God be the glory!

iMissional.org | Roland Kuhl