I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around this idea about Jesus, and have been using this word, undercoming, to describe it.
Undercoming shares some things with overcoming; it’s a way of describing a kind-of final victory. But undercoming is different, because it’s a victory that comes from defeat, a victory that arises from giving power away instead of wielding power of, a victory that arises from submission, not domination.
I think we abuse what Jesus is about, sometimes. The world tells us to overcome, while Jesus tells us to undercome. We experience a victory, and we say that this victory is in Christ, when really, it’s not how Christ would have vectored at all. He act in aggression, we dominate, we wield our power instead of letting it go. Undercoming is hard. I don’t know what it means to undercome, all the time. But I know that it’s better.
Thinking about undercoming helped me to look at Ephesians 4 in this new way:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)”
An aspect of undercoming is that Jesus journey wasn’t just from some midpoint, like Earth. He rose up to the very “highest” place from the very “lowest” place. I think this is an important difference between overcoming and undercoming. The journey to overcome a thing is shorter one. It begins with some mid point. It ends with a sort-of death of whoever we oppose.
Jesus way begins in death of the self, and in undercoming, it moves to a life for all.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Undercoming”

  1. Profound.
    On a somewhat parallel theme, I was in a discussion w/friends about a very important night in my life where I surrendered to God w/regards to my son’s autism. I know it may seem trivial in comparison to surrendering ones life, but my son quite simply, is my life. I remember lying on the floor surrendering to this entity & power that I had (in many ways) no control over. In that submission & defeat I realized in the days that followed I realized I empowered myself by giving up the want and need to “overcome” autism… to try and get a handle on it & control it – an impossible that consistently set me up to fail. Instead in choosing to surrender I gained the power to enjoy the present, to get closer to acceptance, peace & in turn more happiness. Undercoming should most definitely not be underrated. (Sorry for the lengthy response, but this spoke to me & was of a discussion just earlier this week).


  2. Thank you for sharing that. I am a Special Education teacher and have a good friend with a recently-diagnosed-with-Autism child. It’s no small thing. In an education class I took before I knew Jesus, we explored the ways that coming to terms with our kids’ disabalities is similar to the grieving process: we go through denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. I hadn’t much thought about the spiritual ramifications, the way that Jesus paves the way to acceptance. Thanks for bringing a whole new side to this.


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