Submission is not a word that is at the same level of buzz as being ‘missional’. These days I’m being confronted by the concept of being under the auspices of another’s mission. I’m, in part, a child of the postmodern era. One of the distinctives of this era is an intense dislike of authority, of being under of submitting. Thus everything that is good should be relational. My generation flattens hierarchies, befriends authorities and views almost everything in terms of relational integrity and personal fulfillment. Will it help me? Will it build friendships?
There is obviously a lot to say in favor and against such a philosophy.
These days I wonder if my generation is not loosing something important in our mission(s) if we go to such lengths to avoid submission?
A good friend told me this last week how he experienced worship in a postmodern context. He comes out of a liturgical tradition wherein the worship leader leads the community and they submit to the flows of “we all stand”, “we all sit”, “we all kneel”. When the new leader came in she gave people space to either sit, stand, lay, journal or do whatever. What he described is what we do in Claypot and I love the freedom of it … but these days I wonder if we’re not drifting to far … into a deconstruction of submission that leads to disobedience or non-mission?
Recently Francis of Assisi has been my teacher … I’m trying to read all things Francis. A few weeks ago I picked up a collection of all his writings and it is challenging me deeply. Francis is very popular with my generation – especially for his humility, engagement with the poor and his ecological awareness. These things are in his writings … and then there are also admonitions like this one,
The Lord says in the Gospel: he “that doth not renounce all that he possesseth cannot be” a “disciple” and “he that will save his life, shall lose it.” That man leaves all he possesses and loses his body and his soul who abandons himself wholly to obedience in the hands of his superior, and whatever he does and says—provided he himself knows that what he does is good and not contrary to his [the superior’s] will—is true obedience. And if at times a subject sees things which would be better or more useful to his soul than those which the superior commands him, let him sacrifice his will to God, let him strive to fulfill the work enjoined by the superior. This is true and charitable obedience which is pleasing to God and to one’s neighbor. If, however, a superior command anything to a subject that is against his soul it is permissible for him to disobey, but he must not leave him [the superior], and if in consequence he suffer persecution from some, he should love them the more for God’s sake. For he who would rather suffer persecution than wish to be separated from his brethren, truly abides in perfect obedience because he lays down his life for his brothers. For there are many religious who, under pretext of seeing better things than those which their superiors command, look back and return to the vomit of their own will. These are homicides and by their bad example cause the loss of many souls.
This passage has been with me for three weeks now and it is not leaving me. Why would Francis order his brothers to such a radical standard of submission and what is the gain of it?
Here's what I'm thinking … submission trains the obedience muscle. Therefore, if I have a rhythm of doing things even when I don't want to … I'm learning the rhythm of a narrative that is bigger. This in turn could activate a mission that exceeds my individual narrative and bless the world.
Allow me to share a last comment about this. For most of us who are reading this, Francis' language of having a superior will not make sense. Most of us are not in monastic orders and don't have a superior over us. So where can we exercise this muscle?
Our families (submit to one another) husband to wife, wife to husband, children to parents, parents to children.
Our jobs (yes, your boss and yes, your employees).
I'm continuing to explore how submission can either promote being missional or lead to non-mission … I would love to hear your thoughts! How do you view submission?