As we participated in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's (CBF) 20th General Assembly gathering in Tampa last week, I was reminded of how difficult it is to imagine things differently than they have been in the past. The dinner that kicked-off our celebration of 20 years focused on CBF's dissent from the Southern Baptist Convention and the humorous (yet, evidently very painful) divisions that resulted in CBF's setting out to form a new "fellowship". While the next few days certainly took on a more positive tone, the impression of this opening event stayed with me. It bothered me that our identity seemed so centered around who we were not, and less about who we had become - the next few days did communicate in a powerful way who and what is at the heart of CBF, and for that I was so grateful.
Often, I do not think the problem lies in our not moving in the right direction, but rather in our ability to see and imagine who we are becoming and where we are headed on the journey. We are so used to the same language, jokes, explanations, and rhetoric that we miss the amazing way that God is moving and re-shaping us for God's purposes. We will miss the fullness of participating in what God is doing if we continue to see ourselves as a reaction to the past - we must see ourselves as what and who we sense God is calling us to become.
I could use a fresh dose of imagination. In church starting, in CBF, and in life, we must remember that while the past has brought us where we are, it is what lies ahead that deserves our energy, attention, courage and wisdom. In the words of Andre Gide, "People cannot discover new lands unless they have the courage to lose sight of the shore."