We all know people who have little or no emotional grounding. The smallest disturbance in their world (real or imaginary) causes them intense turmoil. Some are paralyzed by their internal conflict and others become high maintenance projects for whoever happens to be around them.
These are identified problems which have received a lot of attention (and demeaning labels) over the years.
There is a far deeper problem, however, and that is people who are very stable because they are deeply grounded — to the wrong thing!
Land is a common source of wrong grounding. I can’t really relate to that. I have traveled (literally) millions of miles around this old globe. There is land I detest, land I am fine with and land I really love. But I can be on land I find quite odious and be thoroughly uncomfortable, without becoming ungrounded at the core.
I have marveled at people who absolutely cannot consider moving out of a particular region into a kind of land/topography/vegetation that is markedly different from what they are accustomed to.
It is simply not right to be emotional grounded to geography.
Guys can become emotionally grounded to winning, whether their competitive field is sports, sales or fishing. Failure to be the first, the fastest or the biggest destabilizes them unduly.
It isn’t right to be emotionally grounded to competition.
The most common emotional grounding is to comfort. Some people become an emotional wreck when there is a crying baby in the airplane seat behind them, or their health is compromised, or their economic realities demand a radical downsizing in car or house or the amount of mad money they can spend in a month.
This is not a viable place to be grounded either.
Many more people are grounded to a relationship. Whether it is their spouse, best buddy or the community at church or work, they are simply shattered when the relationship ends by death, change or conflict. It is right that we should have deep relationships where we give and receive much, and we should grieve deeply when those relationships end, but it is simply unhealthy to have our emotional grounding depend on a relationship.
God designed us to be emotionally grounded to Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:9-13 is the passage we use when teaching people how to pray for their leaders. It is all about the different ways we are to be grounded to Christ.
Colossians 2:9-10 drives it home even further. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given the fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
Again in 3:1-3 our practical connection is reinforced. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right had of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
It is because of this that Paul could say in Philippians that for him to live was Christ and to die was gain. In Romans he said that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ. He was grounded in the extreme to the only stable source of grounding and that was Jesus Christ.
Against that backdrop, the ongoing exodus from the institutional church takes on a whole new look.
According to George Barna, about a million people a year have left the institutional church over the last decade. Some have walked away from their faith. Some have privatized their Christian walk. But a good many left with deep tears and profound regret, and have continued to walk out their Christianity without the Sunday functions.
I have observed a pattern. There are often a couple of years of struggle before people finally resign to the inevitable, and accept that there is not a place for them in the current institutional format of Christianity.
When they leave, it is quite traumatic because they were emotionally grounded to their pastor, or to the community of faith or to the act of corporate worship. Leaving exposed that wrong grounding in them, and they suffered considerably before they found a way to ground themselves to Christ, without the help of community.
Often it is a couple of years after leaving before people settle their legitimacy issues, and then another couple of years before they are no longer feeling ungrounded in their aloneness.
Then, almost inevitably, they begin to be life giving. Each one who is now solidly connected directly to the Head, Jesus Christ, finds so much life within themselves, that they must connect with people who need what they have.
So across the country, millions of mature saints are interacting with other people, outside any structure, allowing the life of God to flow in life giving ways through their design, to the people God brings. It is simple, functional, unguided, somewhat random, and it leaves a lot of holes unfilled.
However, when we step back and look at the bigger picture, excitement builds.
The real story behind the last decade is not the supposed failure of the institutional church. It is still there, still meeting every Sunday, still bringing in millions of people who are blessed and edified by their ministry. God never did intend to eliminate the church as we have known it for centuries.
However, what He HAS done is to raise up an army of Noble Subjects who have been weaned from their wrong emotional grounding, who have learned (unwillingly at times, but learned nonetheless) how to be emotionally grounded to Jesus Christ, without the help of community, and who have learned how to let the life of God flow through them without a human boss or structure supporting them.
THIS is an incredible resource in the hand of God. This is an army that can endure hardship, make changes, go where they need to go without pining over their familiar geography. They can endure hardship and loneliness without compromising the mission.
And for God to take so many people through such an intense period of disengagement from all the familiar wrong sources of grounding, means He is getting ready to do something really, really huge.
He is a shrewd businessman. He does not acquire inventory for His factory that is not going to be used for manufacturing. He does not raise an army for a parade. He does not equip people with skills they won’t need.
Clearly if God has moved so intently to develop a tribe of people who get their emotional grounding from the Head, and nowhere else, then there is going to be a violent upheaval coming which will shatter many, but the Kingdom will advance because the King has an army of Noble Subjects who can embrace the call in the midst of chaos because they are no longer emotionally high-maintenance people — like most of us were before going through this desert time of isolation from a local community of faith.
Copyright December 2010 by Arthur Burk
Written at home, on Christmas evening