The love story of Jacob and Rachel in Genesis 29 begins with some serious passion!
But somewhere down the road, though, Jacob & Rachel inevitably got tired of pitching the tent and feeding the sheep. It's the drudgery of routine. In fact, years later after being unable to have children, Rachel dumps on Jacob and says, “If you can’t give me children I’m going to die”, knowing that the problem wasn’t Jacob because he was having babies galore with Leah. Jacob gets angry and shouts, “Oy vey! Who do you think I am? God?” I would doubt seriously there was a great rush of passionate love at that point. “Falling in love” is what some psychologists believe is the collapsing of so-called “ego boundaries.” Ego boundaries are believed to be something that develops as we mature. For instance, a newborn baby takes time to discover that his hands are connected to himself. After having no sense of boundaries, no distinguishing from himself and the rest of the universe, eventually he realizes that when he’s hungry, mother doesn’t always want to feed him; when he is playful, mother doesn’t always want to play.
In his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, the late author and psychologist M. Scott Peck commented that a baby discerns that its will is “experienced as something separate from its mother’s behavior.” Peck noted that the child’s sense of identity develops out of the interaction between the infant and mother. It’s interesting that when this interaction is “grossly disturbed,” for instance if there is no mother or a severely disinterested one, the infant will grow into an adult “whose sense of identity is grossly defective in the most basic ways.” In one year the newborn goes from no sense of identity to “my foot, my nose, my eyes, my thoughts, my viewpoint, my feelings.” The knowledge of these limits is what psychologists refer to as “ego boundaries.” As we grow older, we become painfully aware of our own limitations. Peck wrote: “Reality (will eventually) intrude upon the fantastic unity of the couple who have fallen in love. Sooner or later, in response to the problems of daily living, ‘individual will’ reasserts itself. He wants to have sex; she doesn’t. She wants to go to the movies; he doesn’t. He wants to put money in the bank; she wants a dishwasher. She wants to talk about her job; he wants to talk about his. She doesn’t like his friends; he doesn’t like hers. So both of them, in the privacy of their hearts, begin to come to the sickening realization that they are not one with the beloved, that the beloved has and will continue to have his or her own desires, tastes, prejudices and timing different from the other’s. One by one, gradually or suddenly, they fall out of love...” The theory is that in “falling in love” we experience the collapsing of those ego boundaries...we are one with our beloved, we merge our identity with our lover, and there is release from loneliness accompanying the collapse of our walls. Falling in love is effortless. And that is precisely part of the problem—for real love is an act of the will, an act of choice, and will never be anything less. Now think about how this relates to our passion for God and His mission as leaders. For instance, years ago I heard a leader comment that God spoke to him and said, “You and I aren’t compatible…and I don’t change.” I wonder if passion for God is connected with the willful collapsing of my ego boundaries? Would “falling in love” with God be similar to that? Perhaps when Jesus said to His future leaders, “Pick up your cross and follow me,” He was describing the ultimate breakdown of ego boundaries.
Self-Reflection: As a leader, what's your passion factor for “Missio Dei”—the Mission of God? Are you aware of your “ego boundaries” with God?
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES