At the most painful meeting of my adult life I first heard of a person being spiritually undeployable. Myself. I sat numbly as my defects were enumerated and the conclusion reached. What followed was three months of tumult, listening to the opinions and evaluations of others and listening to God. My thoughts on this issue stem from much meditation and thought on the concept of spiritual deployment.
What is spiritual deployability? Who qualifies? Obviously many leaders in Christendom consider themselves qualified to make this judgment. Church and mission leaders, parachurch organizational leaders, anyone with a vestige of spiritual authority has the insight to divine another’s value in a spiritual ministry context. It looks right and it sounds right. There is a grain of sand in the shoe, but one is able to ignore it for a while, thinking, “well, it’s only my own fallen nature.” As long as we don’t find ourselves undeployable, we accept it as a valid concept.
But is it? What is it? And who is qualified?
The army uses “deployable” to describe the state of fitness for a soldier to be useful in whatever capacity he serves to wherever he needs to be sent. Deployment is moving troops into action. Being undeployable involves some disqualification, physically, mentally, or emotionally, which prevents a soldier from being worthy or capable of serving.
To be deployable, therefore, is the deep, unspoken desire of everyone in God’s hands and family. We want to be used. We long to be useful--part of the solution, not the problem. Being undeployable makes us the problem. Rich Mullins sang, “We must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are.” He had an awareness of his own undeployability and tried to sing to us that we are not as deployable as we think we are.
“His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Luke 3:17.
When Luke describes Jesus as the fast and furious thresher with his winnowing fork in hand, our focus is on the wheat and chaff: the saved and not, the chosen and not, the good and not. He thrusts His fork under the beaten stalks, the wind blows away the fluffy non-grain. The wheat falls down to be kept, ground into flour and made into bread.
We are the stalks, we are wheat and chaff. In our entirety, we are not ready, acceptable, useful to be ground into flour and turned into bread. We have chaff in our lives. Stuff that our culture cries out is so very important to us: our identity, our dreams, our images of ourselves, our habits, our possessions, and much, much more.
Some of it we know is not profitable. We have habits we want to break, other habits we’d like to develop that will make us more profitable. We have so much to offer, so much we want to bring to show our gratitude.
It’s chaff. All of it. Who I am. What I dream. Where I serve. What I have and what I give. Everything. Even my deployability. Just chaff. Empty fluff. No seed, no food, no bread coming from that. Piles and piles of non-wheat. The Thresher has to come and thresh the stalks to separate the wheat and chaff, the edible from inedible.
As I have wrestled, I’ve discovered that spiritual deployability is an illusion: the concept that we bring value and credit to what we do; that what we do makes us worthy, or how we are makes us profitable. It sounds good, but it is a subtle lie that points us to the ladder of works.
The pure in heart shall see God. Not the deployable, the impressive, the ones with a great track record or piles of quantifiable “fruit.” The pure in heart.
Paul says in Philippians, “Let your gentleness be known . . .”
These are not items to be ticked off in a “spiritual deployment” viability list.
Look at our larger-than-life but tremendously flawed Bible heros from Abraham through David and beyond: take an honest look, and take heart. It isn’t about us, after all. God is working in us, as undeployable and as poor risks as we are. When God is at work, the least deployable may end up most useful.
“If I stand, let me stand on the promise that You will pull me through.
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You.” (Rich Mullins)