Listening to words being used at the Renovaré conference has
been interesting. Today I want to
focus on a word I’ve heard a lot.
It is the word INTENTIONAL.
We have to be intentional. Be part of intentional communities. Practice intentionality. Live with intention. Have a vision, intention and mean. Intentionally engage with the
disciplines. Live in an
intentional community. And so it
But what does it mean?
Intention has to do with the will and the making of a
choice. To be deliberate or to use
another word I’ve heard used a lot, to have ‘purpose’. A few evenings ago I met
a young couple. They have sold all their belongings – got in their car and are
now searching for an intentional community. So far they’ve visited two. I wondered how the two communities who they’ve visited felt
after they were there and left.
So in curiosity I asked them to explain to me what they
meant by the phrase intentionality.
For them it was to move in with other people who are also intentional.
I find this very interesting, the whole notion of being with
people who are also intentional.
Playing with the word I want to propose (or be intentional J ) with the word and do
this with it: in – tension.
Growth happens when there is tension. Wildernesses are places of
tension. Dark nights of the soul
are places of tension. Relationships
are places of tension (real ones).
But we don’t like tension – we take a verse like “where two
or three are gathered in my name, there I am” and lift it out of its
context. The context in Matthew 18
wherein this verse is embedded is one of tension and conflict. Jesus is saying that where there is
tension, there He is. Growth
happens when the Spirit blows us to create, confront and be in-tension. The cross creates tension – Jesus
I want to caution against a certain kind of intentionality
or intention that has at its heart a negation of tension. Allow me to explain.
A few weeks ago Claypot’s leadership (or waiters as we call
them) went on a retreat. During
the retreat we experienced an in-tension.
Some of the Claypot community has moved into the marginal spaces of our
society, others still live in the suburbs.
Some of our members are single, others are married, others
married with children, and some are empty nesters. We discussed the contexts of how to follow Jesus.
How do we follow Jesus in the suburbs and how do we follow
him if we live in the squatter camps or in Cosmo City? This conversation raised tension. We are in-tension. If everyone lives in the suburbs then
we wouldn’t be in-tension. If
everyone believes the suburbs to be a place devoid of Jesus and all of us move
to the squatters camp then we would be out-of-tension.
I know there would be other tensions but there wouldn’t be
interpersonal tension between differing living contexts.
When in-tension is gone I think we have fallen for a myopic
version of the life of Jesus.
Children of Jesus, living for Jesus continually creates spaces of
in-tension where God shows up.
Many years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned us against
creating communities that are “wish dreams”. When we live in a wish dream, we turn people into extensions
of our ideals and a kind of cloning takes place. Just think of all the tensions that we deal with on a daily
basis: rich and poor, white and black, oppressed and oppressors, employees and
bosses, those making their homes on the margins and the suburbs, internal
ego-filled ambitions and faithful obedience … and so the list goes on.
It is this in-tension that creates spaces for
creativity. When we prematurely
relieve the tension we fall into the wish-dream and illusionary community
Bonhoeffer warned us about.
During the last few months a group of us are reading David
Bosch’s wonderful book, “Transforming mission”. A phrase that keeps on being repeated is the phrase
Because we’re privileged to have Bosch’s wife Annemie in our
group we have some relational insight on his love for that phrase. Apparently David had an immense ability
to live within the tension and to bring groups who are in tension together.
Because we live in a culture where we’ve deified comfort
this in-tentionality becomes very important. Some contexts have tension built
into it by default.
During the Renovaré international conference it was
interesting to listen to the struggles used as examples of tension. Standing in a long queue, driving
through traffic, losing money in the economic downturn – these are some of the
issues that have been mentioned and I’m sure there are other real life issues
that weren’t mentioned.
In the international community there are other
struggles/tensions. The week
before I came to the conference we studied the Bible one evening with gunshots
in the background and a few days later during a prayer meeting a car was
God moves in-tension.
Jesus knew this! After His
identity was established we read that the Spirit drove Him into a tension. That’s why we need to be part of an
internationally diverse community of nations, economics, passions and languages
– it creates IN-TENSIONS.