IF WE ACCEPT we have a mission – a God-purposed and God-defined mission – and most of us struggle to delineate a single mission – we most definitely have, also, what John Ortberg calls a shadow mission. If it’s possible to have more than one mission, and it is, it’s also possible to have more than one shadow mission. Somewhat just off centre of the true mission, a shadow mission is the centralising of part of our lives on what is unworthy, selfish or dark.
This article is my attempt to differentiate seven possible shadow missions by utilising the deadly sins – which I think are the roots of our inner evil.
Shadow Mission #1 – Pride
All of us have a weakness in the area of pride, but I wonder if those who are especially humble by characterisation (like, they are normally very humble) are especially vulnerable to a shadow mission based out of pride.
Shadow Mission #2 – Anger
As we may all be susceptible to pride, for all of us there are things that make us angry, though not all anger is sinful. I wonder if those who are especially patient by characterisation (like, they are normally very patient) are especially vulnerable to a shadow mission based out of anger. They may not need to work very hard at being patient, as it’s a part of their giftedness, but anger may lurk. Something that is akin to patience is grace. Forgiving people may have a weakness for anger.
Shadow Mission #3 – Greed
Those who are generous may not have much of a clue regarding greed, but every one of us is prone to a degree of covetousness. Those who are especially giving may find it distasteful in the extreme that they are not given back to – and resentments may form. This is possibly a shadow mission of greed speaking, for giving is its own blessing.
Shadow Mission #4 – Envy
Kindness is a trait especially rich in some people – they see with eyes of kindness. Yet, there is the threat of envy in all of us. Could it be that those who are kind may also see, in some situations, with eyes of envy – and not out of greed? Their envy may be borne on the wings of the fact that unkind people seem to get away with their lack of kindness.
Shadow Mission #5 – Lust
Chaste people, who seem to be especially innocent, demure and pure by nature, may be prone to a sliver of excess toward the secret passions of lust. This shadow mission – to be afflicted by lust – is especially shaming for obvious reasons. But we could focus on the enormous benefit it is to be considered a clean thinker.
Shadow Mission #6 – Sloth
The diligent can be especially lazy, especially if it’s a fear of failure that drives them, and that sense of ‘failure around the corner’ threatens no longer. The diligent are vulnerable to resentment when they are pushed too far or if they are not appreciated for the volume and quality of their work. They might secretly prefer whole days off to do nothing.
Shadow Mission #7 – Gluttony
The self-c0ntrolled person, by characterisation, perhaps has a weakness for gluttony. Again, it may be a feature of someone resenting their gift, though it’s too easy to generalise.
Not all people gifted with particular virtues have shadow missions regarding the corresponding deadly sins, but it’s worthy of noting if there is a link or not.
All of the shadow missions seem shameful and they are hidden from sight. They can be seen as God’s reminder that we need to stay on task, and focus on leaning on the Holy Spirit, so our real missions would get the traction God deserves out of them.
What is bad – the shadow mission – God can convert to good, through our open recognition and awareness of it. Nothing may be more threatening or humbling – to stare our shameful shadow in its face and accept it is there. But surely we are liberated to be aware and to ensure we constantly surrender it to God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.