. . . posts on faith and life
Have you ever experienced the temporary suspension of being? If you’re a shy person, have you ever found yourself in a situation where a complex set of dynamics converged in a group setting and for one night you were the charming, life of the party? If you’re a hyper and outgoing person, have you ever found yourself at a random event where you were uncharacteristically reserved, contemplative, and quietly willing to go with the flow of the group? Have you ever had an epiphany that caused you to completely reinterpret a significant portion of your childhood? Have you ever found yourself breaking all of the established rules of your personality and temperament, and accomplishing things that are typically out of reach for you? If you can say yes to any of these, or many other similar things, you have experienced what I am calling ontological displacement.
Ontological displacement is the phenomena that allows you to temporarily overcome the ‘physics’ of your personhood, the laws (much like gravity in the physical world) that have been shaped and formed through a plethora of experiences, seasons, people, and thoughts in your life. These laws might be a tendency to suddenly ‘go off’ when someone pushes a certain ‘button,’ or a way of responding to certain personalities, or certain settings, etc. Occasionally these laws, as fixed as they seem, get suspended, and for a moment you hear yourself saying, ‘everything is different this time.’ Just imagine yourself as a snow globe. And while, for the most part, the flakes of snow always settle back down, every now and then they settle down in a new places, in new piles and things are not the way they used to be. That’s when transformation takes place. Both transformation for the good, and for the bad.
Ontological displacement is not just a random occurrence that breaks in on us. It’s also a spiritual discipline of sorts. As Christians we are called to constantly move away from ourselves. We are called to give more than we take. We are called to serve more than we are served. We are to seek the lesser more than the greater. In this same way the church is to move away from itself. It must constantly give up itself. It must lose its agenda. It must prefer others over its program. It must go out.
We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Heb. 13:10-16
The church must move once again outside its camp. It must overcome the ontological laws that are causing it to sit lethargically and feed itself on spiritual candy in a comfortable building while pain, betrayal, suffering, starvation, disease, and poverty wreak havoc on the world outside. It must practice the spiritual discipline of ontological displacement. And in order to do that we must die to ourselves, and find life in loving and serving those outside our camp.