Scared of my own Shadow


“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep…” Acts 13:36


About 15 years ago when it was quite popular to develop a personal mission statement, I went through that phase along with the rest of professional America.  I prayed, thought, reflected and agonized over what it was that God had put me on this spinning ball of mud to do.  Here is what I came up with back in the mid 90’s:  To tell people that God is not mad at them and to show them the way home. 


I still like that sentence.  I tried to make it transcendent to what I did for a living.  In other words, could I still fulfill that mission if I weren’t a pastor?  Could I do that as a worker in a gas refinery in Tacoma or as a corporate trainer and as a manager of a Service Master franchise?  It is an adequate personal mission statement, but somehow it never got me that excited.  It felt good to have one, but that was about it.  In time I started feeling unfulfilled again.


I was selling surveying equipment and felt the pain of a square peg trying to have its corners rounded into a hole it was never designed to fit when the familiar pain an unfulfilled life overwhelmed me.  It felt like I was dying of some insidious disease that was eating away at my insides.  I wanted to find and feel fulfillment.  I felt desperate to find my identity.


I was driving at breakneck pace of a snail on State Route 167 heading north towards Kent, WA when I began to weep.  The tears were flowing so much that I couldn’t see to drive.  I pulled off to the side of the road while cars honked and angry drivers threw me the bone.  I didn’t care.  I was dying inside.  I pounded the palm of my hands on the steering wheel and shouted, “God, who the hell am I? 


It was real quiet in my truck with the motor idling.  Did I just cuss at God?  I swallowed the lump in my throat and kept silent.  Then I heard in something louder than an audible voice, “You are my storyteller.”  As soon as those words settled in my spirit, I knew I had just heard the words I have longed to hear all of my life.


Now comes the hard part.  I read an article the other day that spoke of how people and organizations can default into what this author called a shadow mission.  It is the activities we do when we follow the path of least resistance.  People can have them:  “It’s all about me.”  Or “Show me the money.”  Churches have shadow missions: “A successful church for successful people.”  Or this one:  “Size matters.”  Businesses have them: “Maintain the system.” And “People are made to be used.”


Jesus had a shadow mission.  In the wilderness experience the devil tempted him to be a Savior without having to suffer and die.  Jesus fought that temptation all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Then just hours before he died for our sins he said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me (his shadow mission of a cross-less atonement); nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26:39 (ESV)


If Jesus had a shadow mission, in stands to reason that little ole Joe has one too.  And so I prayed on it, reflected on it, journaled about it to see if I could name my shadow mission.  It didn’t come to me right away, but in a few days I was walking in the snowy woods with my dog and it came to me what mine is.  It revolves around what brings me the most fear and sense of vulnerability.


I have secret that I have never told anyone about.  The minute my mind rested on this secret, I knew that I had just discovered my shadow mission.  Don’t get your hopes up…I am not going to reveal it here.  Not yet anyway.  But I know what it is and that is a start.  (By the way it is not anything perverted, illegal or immoral) 


Now I am in pain again.  Do I tell someone about it?  Do I ask for accountability?  I know what you are thinking, of course you tell someone.  Of course you let folks hold you accountable to not default towards your shadow mission.  Come on Joe we know the bad stuff you have done in your life!  Why hide more now?


I’ll tell you why:  I am scared.  Scared that if folks knew they wouldn’t  love or accept me.


The fight is on.  I am wrestling with an angel at the River Jabbok.  I know why I am here.  I found my purpose, my mission.  I know also my shadow mission.  I am doing both now.  They are happening at the same time.  By telling you even just this little bit about it I believe I am dragging the shadow into the open where the light can kill it.


“Let us test and examine our ways…”  Lam 3:40 (ESV)





7 thoughts on “Scared of my own Shadow

  1. one of my favorite verses of all time is John 1:4-9

    “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
    …the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (ESV)

    I feel and have felt the same way before and just knowing that the light that Jesus brought into this world indwells me is much help for my troubled soul. It has been my experience that the shadow is powerful and the closer to the light it gets the deeper its talons upon the soul grip to stay in its place, and oh do they hurt. I have always liked this saying “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”. Thanks for the insight dad.

  2. Wow, Joe. That was thought provoking. This gave me cause to examine myself in a different way. I think it has given better identification to something I have thought of before, not just in the same way. I feel as though I have honed in closer to something that will help me to understand me and God’s plan for my life. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Joe,
    Mine seems to be a shadow mission impossible….figuring it out that is. I will have to probe my heart a bit. Thanks for the insight into this issue of awareness.

  4. Fear of secrets stopping love or acceptance can actually result in far worse problems, as i have found that secrets can poison relationships both with other people and God. Not secrets I kept,but from loved ones who did not want to confess wrongdoing even if it occured before we knew each other. The guilt led them to project their negative feelings on to me,their fear of discovery and culpability to blaming me for existing. We are commanded to forgive,but if one will not face the shadow the secret looms larger than it is,and the longer denied the larger it may seem and one cannot forgive what one is not aware of. The reactions may confuse as it did me,leading me to believe the others did not love or care for me,further poisoning the waters. Satan loves secrets and hates confession and forgiveness. God bless.

  5. I’ve read that our greatest sin is our greatest gift turned upside down. Our redemption is then a matter of asking God to turn the coin over. The shadow mission concept sounds a lot like that. God takes our greatest failings and transforms it into our greatest gift to Him. We follow the old sinful self or let God lead us in our redeemed self. That sinful self lurks and tempts us constantly, and therin lies our constant need of God, Christian companions, and honest stories from our dear brother, Joe.

  6. Joe, what is the worst thing that can happen if you were to bring your shadow mission into the light? I am not telling you to share it, but consider the best and worst outcomes. I think I understand my own shadow mission now after reading this blog entry a couple of weeks ago. I can empathize though, I am not ready to share mine for fear of feeling completely exposed! Perhaps this says more about my trust in God than about my self. Exodus 33:14 The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s