Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Taking the "M" out of "OMG"

Recently I was giving a talk to a group of young adults about vocation and discernment. Trying to be trendy I cheekily named the talk "OMG, where am I going?" I know, cheesy right?

But when we look at that acronym, we see a big "M" in the middle of it. The problem with the "M" in "OMG" is that it literally puts "me" in the center. It's a mentality that has run rampant in our world: the world revolves around me. Even for those of us who would call ourselves well meaning Christians, it's so easy to get caught up in "what am I meant to be doing with my life?" We make ourselves the subject.

The danger of the "M" in "OMG" is that it can minimise the relevance of God in the equation. We turn in on ourselves, ignoring the needs of the community and ignoring the relationship we have with God. The search for God becomes a search for meaning within ourselves. We become mystic naval gazers.

Remember the Exodus story? The Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, God brings plagues upon the Egyptians and leads the Israelites to freedom through the parted Red Sea (Exodus 4-15). Despite their new found freedom, the Israelites were still focused on the "M": they grumbled about a lack of food and water (Ex 15-16) and even created new gods (Ex 32) to satisfy their own desires (as a side note: the Israelites complained about a lack of food and water, but were resourceful enough to make a statue of a calf out of gold? Priorities people!) They wandered aimlessly around the desert for 40 years until they were ready to follow God into the Promised Land. Their search for meaning was based on themselves, not on God.

But what happens when we take the "M" out of "OMG"? We're left with a beautifully simple prayer: "O God!" We take ourselves out of the picture, we strip away all the extra crap that might be weighing us down, and we turn completely to God. "O God" can be a prayer of joy, a prayer of anger, a prayer of lament or a prayer of confusion.

In Lent we're presented with another "desert" experience, one that dramatically contrasts the Israelites desert wandering. Jesus spends 40 days and 40 nights in the desert (Matthew 4). But far from aimlessly wandering, he is lead to the desert by the Spirit, where even though he is tempted by the devil, his focus is still on God.

The question for us in the last two weeks of Lent is which is our desert experience? Have our Lenten practices led us to God, or led us to the "M"? That's a question not just for Lent, but as we live out the Easter mystery throughout our whole lives: how will the death and resurrection of Jesus lead us to know, love and serve God and other? Or like the Israelites in the desert, will we worship the golden calves of our consumerist society?

As we prepare for the mystery of Easter, let's take the "M"out of "OMG", and whichever season of life we find ourselves in let our prayer be simple and focused: "O God!

Monday, 17 March 2014


This semester at uni I'm studying Old Testament Narratives. I've always had a head for literature, reading, writing, for story; and there's something about that word narrative that really captivates me. Check out this definition of narrative, taken from the Oxford dictionary:

"Your life is a story" is my throw away vocation/life-journey line; but actually there's something profound about this definition.

  1. A narrative is an "account of connected events; a story..." That seems pretty straightforward and obvious, but substitute "narrative" with words like "life", "vocation" or "faith-journey". Sometimes the connections between events in our lives aren't that obvious, it might take some prayer, counselling, mentoring or time to join the dots. Establishing those connections and the story that they tell will give flesh to your understanding of your life and your place in the world and the Church.
  2. Narrative is "the narrated part" of a story. A story has an implied narrator. The big question is who is your narrator? If the answer is God, how do you follow the story he sets out before you? How do you respond to the story line, the plot and the other characters? Ultimately the overarching plot belongs to the Narrator, are we listening and aware to the story God is telling?
  3. Narrative is the "art of telling stories." Your story and the way it becomes enveloped into the greater story of Creation isn't meant to be kept to yourself. Your life has been impacted by stories artfully lived, whether by your parents, a friend, a teacher or a random by-passer. How do we "artfully live our stories"?
  4. Narrative involves reflecting or conforming "to an overarching set of aims and values." Reflect and conform, listen and respond, discern and decide: the relationship between us and our God is the call that God places on our lives. That call at it's most basic (yet grand) level is to know, love and proclaim God. As we live that storyline the plot escalates as we discover the state of life God calls us to (i.e. ordained, single, married or consecrated life). As we journey through the chapters in our lives we discover vocations within our vocation (e.g. to a ministry, service or an occupation).

We're connected to something much bigger, broader, further and deeper than just our own plot. When we plot our own lives to become part of the greater story of the whole of Creation, not only will meaning seep off of the pages of our own life, but it will also seep into the stories of those around us. "Once upon a time" and "happily ever after" might be corny and cheesy, so let's focus instead on story lines like "for God so loved the world", "He came so we might have life to the full" and "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."