Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Coming to Grips with God’s Timing

Change and growth are an inevitable part of our faith journey. As we move through our life, and hopefully move closer to God in the process, there is an amazingly intricate dance that we do with God. There is no doubt that God has a purpose for our life. There are things that we are created to accomplish. There are certain lessons that we need to learn to accomplish them. There are hurts that need to be healed and there are experiences that have to be overcome. At the same time, God will not run roughshod over our free will. God’s purpose for our life doesn’t negate our free will. The result is that our life, our growth in grace and faith and our faithful and effective service aren’t likely to follow a seamless trajectory; hence the image of the dance.

The challenge for our perception is that we don’t always learn things, get the healing or overcome previous experience in a logical order. In these past several months of near vertical learning curve I’ve had experiences of growth in which I’ve asked the hypothetical question: “Why didn’t I learn this before?” or, “Why am I only learning this now?” It didn’t take long before I came to grips with the truth that for one reason or another, I simply wasn’t ready…small consolation, but I’m learning to deal with it.

After the learning that I experienced two weeks ago with regard to my family of origin issues (a story dealt with in my previous posting) and particularly the healing that came as a result of it, I never articulated it fully, but the question of why I was only learning these things about my life and family now lingered just below the surface. While I wasn’t actively seeking the answer, God offered me a gift. This is my journal entry from the very next day. While it won’t be customary to share my journal with the world, I share these two entries (my previous posting and now this one) because I wanted to share the immediacy of the experience. Both of these entries were written while in the throws of what for me were profound experiences of grace.

February 15, 2007

I thought that today would be a pretty mellow day. Yesterday was so eventful, so inspiring, so cathartic and so exhausting. It felt like the first truly healthy day that I had ever lived. It was the first day that I felt free of the oppressive influence of my dad. It scared the crap out of me to feel so vulnerable, but I could feel the presence of God sustaining me.

Then comes this morning’s input session and a brief consideration of the topic of Wesleyan Spirituality. As I read and heard the familiar words of Wesley’s inspiration, I could feel the Spirit’s movement and power stir deep within my soul and my experience. I began to imagine a road stretched out before me. The truths that my practice and belief have taught me have given me a framework and have been a means of God’s sustaining grace. The came the question that drew me into silence: who are you indebted to?

I began to think of all the people that have taught me, supported me, sustained me and guided me on the path, even to this day. I reflected on the fruit that, by God’s grace alone, my life and ministry have born. I lamented the ways that my life and ministry were compromised by the narcissism that I engaged in. I began to imagine the choking off of possibilities by the fear, the approval seeking and the move toward unhealthy self-protection. Into this awareness the Spirit thrust the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. There was an immediate, physiological response that was profound. It took my breath away! I realized that yesterday was harvest time. The weeds that were sown in my earliest days and could not be removed without doing damage to the plant could now be safely pulled and thrown into the fire! This image was powerful and altered my perception, but for several minutes I remained out of breath. I wasn’t scared, per se, but it did have my attention. When I reached the destination where I had intended to write and reflect, a hymn came to me…"Breathe of my breath of God, fill me with life anew. That I may love what thou wouldst love and do what thou wouldst do.” Indeed, grace is my constant companion…a dept that God freely carries in order for me to be the person that God created me to be. My breath was restored. My life is restored.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Fresh Look at My Journey

My postings have been pretty sparse in recent months. Three months ago, during Week 5 of my Academy experience I was confronted with a truth about myself and my family that shook me to the core. For years I knew that my family was dysfunctional and that the bulk of the dysfunction orbited my dad. I had made assumptions about why my dad lived and related the way he did, but three months ago those assumptions came crashing down.

With the help of a trusted friend who is a therapist, I was able to recognize that my dad presents the classic behavior of a serious personality disorder. As I read more about the disorder, learned that it was largely volitional and looked more closely at the impact that being brought up in that environment had on me I became increasingly angry. I was angry at my dad and I was angry with myself. I saw significant chunks of my life, my relationships and my ministry adversely impacted by my choices and fears that were shaped by the influence of my dad and his disorder.

I was hurting in ways that I had never hurt before. I knew that I needed to be healed. Through my experiences in the Academy I could sense God at work bringing that healing. I had expectations of what I wanted it to be. As I shared my expectations of God's healing with a trusted colleague and friend, little did I know that by morning's end it would all change. The following is my journal entry from that life-changing morning.

“I had hoped for and prayed for an experience of healing that would provide me with a safe place to stand. As I have opened myself to grace I was still setting terms. I could sense that God was going to do a new thing in me this week. I hoped it would be something that would help me get over the anger that I still harbor toward Dad. I hoped I could learn forgiveness of self for the ways that I still act out of his example and influence. I was looking for a safe place to stand so that I could do battle with the demons of my past that are still bound to pop up from time to time. Then came the question: ‘Where have you experienced grace?’

The grace came when I realized that God did not fulfill my hope…but God did answer my prayer. I was looking for a quick resolution for something that developed in a lifetime. I suppose, at least subconsciously, I was looking to avoid the hard work of healing and transformation. In the end, I was looking to be set free from the pattern of avoidance that perpetuated the problem from which I needed to be healed. OUCH! Thanks God!!

Healing is not a place to stand that provides an advantageous battle ground. The answer to my prayer is the acceptance that the healing I seek is part of my lifetime journey of faith. It is a journey in which grace is my constant companion. It is a journey taken with a community of caring and accountability. It is a journey of vulnerability during which I won’t be able to count on having the most advantageous ground to fight from when the demons come. Therefore it is fundamentally a journey of trust. This is a journey I can take, not because of any particular ability that I possess. I take this journey without the benefit of a map. I take this journey with no pretense of leadership or control. I take this journey willing to take God’s hand and be led.”