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And everybody has a shadow mission. Our lives, and the lives of the groups we're part of, can drift into the pursuit of something unworthy and dark. To give in to our shadow mission is-or should be-our greatest fear. To overcome our shadow mission is what this book is about. But I'm getting ahead of the story.
A few years ago a friend talked me into going on one of those discover-the-wild-inner-hairy-warrior-within-you men's weekends. It was held at a remote and primitive quasi-military campground. I could tell you where it was, but then I'd have to kill you. We arrived in darkness. Silent men with flashlights who had watched Apocalypse Now once too often led us wordlessly to a processing room. Our duffel bags were searched, and all prohibited items (snacks, reading materials, signal flares) were confiscated. We were assigned numbers that were to be used instead of our names to identify us through most of the weekend.
We chanted. We marched unclad through the snow. For two days we ate bark and berries. We were sleep deprived. We howled at the moon. We sat onour haunches in a Chippewa warrior teepee/sauna purifying our souls in the glandular fellowship of sweat, thirty men evaporating in a space no more than six sane Chippewa warriors would have tried to crowd into.
But strangely enough, in the middle of all the psychobabble and melodrama came moments of unforgettable insight. One of the topics we covered at this retreat was how we were created for a mission. This was familiar territory. Then one speaker said something that stuck with me. He said if we don't embrace our true mission, we will by default pursue what he called a "shadow mission"-patterns of thought and action based on temptations and our own selfishness that lead us to betray our deepest values. The result: regret and guilt.
He told us what his particular shadow mission consists of: "My shadow mission is to watch TV and masturbate while the world goes to hell."
His language was more raw than this, and a round of nervous laughter swept across the circle of men.
"I'm going to say it one more time," the man said, "only this time I want you to listen and not laugh." And he said it again: "My shadow mission is to watch TV and masturbate while the world goes to hell."
Each of us was thinking the same thing: how easily any of our lives can slide into such a self-centered, trivial pursuit. This guy wasn't tempted to be Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein. He would have fought against that kind of outright evil. It was the banality of his shadow mission that made it so possible.
I had never heard the phrase before. I had never named what my shadow mission might be. But I understood. I knew.
You and I were created to have a mission in life. We were made to make a difference. But if we do not pursue the mission for which God designed and gifted us, we will find a substitute. We cannot live in the absence of purpose. Without an authentic mission, we will be tempted to drift on autopilot, to let our lives center around something that is unworthy, something selfish, something dark-a shadow mission.
Later on we will learn how to identify and battle both our own shadow missions and the shadow missions of the organizations or teams we lead. But for now I want to underscore just how serious this topic is. When our lives deteriorate into the pursuit of a shadow mission, the world loses. Shadow missions are what we foolishly pursue "while the world goes to hell."
You may scoff at the idea that your shadow mission has any bearing on the larger world. Our eyes remain veiled to the ultimate consequences of our choices. But the Bible tells many stories in which God reveals what the bitter end can be of a shadow mission: death. And the joyous reward of fighting that shadow mission: life. We now turn to one of the classic stories.
Excerpted from Overcoming Your Shadow Mission by John Ortberg Copyright © 2008by John Ortberg.Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 2, 2011
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