Nuance, Subtext & Materialism – Jeremy Austill

I stumbled across the above quote a few weeks ago and it spoke to a tension I have been experiencing for quite some time. On the surface this seems like a simple thought. As a leader one must be able to perceive falsehood in the world and contend against said falsehood. However, it is the latter half of the quote which serves somewhat as a subtext for the first half. As an American influenced Christian, I am not sure I always do “nuance” well. We tend to gravitate toward the clinical precision of the first portion of the quote and embrace it as a leadership/life nugget that creates clear expectations and boundaries thus diverting our attention from the portion which creates uncertainty. Succinctly stated, we like clear cut answers and easily understood declarations. We celebrate bold, firm statements which serve notice to some segment of society. For some, we have a tendency to eschew thought processes, ideas, theological expressions, and introspection that generate the discomfort of tension. We self-medicate with entertainment, hobbies, relationships, work and various other diversions which are often perfectly acceptable and utterly harmless yet occasionally detrimental to spiritual revelation.

Having said the above, throughout the last 24 months I have been pulled by my circumstances into a life of embracing the tension and celebrating its value. I am discovering the beauty, power and faith found in the willingness to explore the less clearly defined, which leads me to the nerve struck by the quote above. I would never go around calling myself a prophet. I used to bristle at our obsession with titles (especially in the Church) but have, in recent years, been more inclined to find it humorous and somewhat sad. I won’t use this space today to give explanation of this transition. As I stated, I would never attempt to bolster my status by putting the word “prophet” on the little plaque outside my office door. However, as a Spirit filled follower of Jesus it would be irresponsible to disregard the expectation of my life having a prophetic edge. How can one be filled with Holy Spirit and not have a measure of hearing/saying, seeing/reacting, identifying/moving, perceiving/changing…? Not to mention the declaration I have made (and you are expected to judge) that I am called into the service of spiritual leadership in the Body of Christ.

As a leader, with a prophetic edge, I should be astute in perceiving the falsehoods of society (both secular and in the Church) and have an intense willingness to struggle against said falsehoods.

(*Side note: The word “falsehoods”, in my opinion, speaks more to mindsets, subtext in culture and matters of the heart than blatant actions and scenarios.)

In theory, this sounds exactly like the endeavor to which I should give myself wholeheartedly. "The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John  3:8)”. However, there is a somewhat inferred idea which conceives conflict in my soul. My attachment to material things…let’s be real…my materialism can have a profound affect on my ability to perceive falsehood. Even more so, my materialism can cause me to cower from the struggle against falsehood because the cost may be too substantial. I have a wife, two beautiful kids, a mortgage and a rather convenient life. Anything that puts a strain in those areas, causes a pause. Transparency beckons me to admit it is difficult being a legitimate, prophetic, ideal spiritual leader who follows Holy Spirit and adheres to the bible when the truth has the capacity to affect the people, payments and conveniences of my life. This tension has created a hesitance in me as it pertains to writing or starting this blog. It arises when I teach and preach. It surfaces during conversation. I type now with materials, livelihood and comfort inescapable in my thoughts. The question begs to be asked in our hearts…to what degree do we allow the offerings of this earth to weigh in on the execution of our assignment? 

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a cliched solution. I have questions…questions left with room to breathe often bring new empowerment. Tension, not medicated with pat answers and quick, defensive rebuttals has the capacity to shape our soul and weave us more intrinsically into the fabric of God’s Kingdom. An ongoing (for a meaningful duration of days/weeks) conversation with Holy Spirit can unlock revelation which sets our hearts free. Nuance is a beautifully uncomfortable gift.

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