Sunday, June 24, 2007

Getting Smacked in the Face, Again

Have you ever had one of those moments on the journey when a hole just seems to jump up and bite you? You know, you’re just tripping along minding your own business and out of nowhere you get tripped up, snared, knocked over… The thing that sucks about that scenario is that it comes when we least expect it. Typically it comes, also, when we need it most. I write this posting at an Annual Conference Plenary. Conference is nearly over, and as I reflect on my experience of this Conference in light of experiences of grace I’ve previously shared, I realize that I’ve been smacked in the face. I found myself tripping over my own ego.

I suppose that this should be considered a confessional. In spite of my desire to take my ego out of my faith and my service, in this setting, I’ve allowed it to sneak back in. In a place that could offer great hope and possibility for faith, transformation, discipleship and grace, I lament the ways that I have participated in ambition, jealousy, suspicion and mistrust. Those pieces that I had hoped to be in the process of being healed from that I recognized as having no place in my life suddenly were much closer than I expected or like. OUCH!

The irony of this confession is that the Bible studies that have begun each of our Conference days have talked about the power, reality and promise of God’s Shalom in the midst of a broken and uncertain world. Even as we’ve talked about shalom and challenged toward embracing the full depth of shalom, I’ve been stung by the absence of shalom in my own heart in these few days. I’m caught in the tension of claiming renewal as the authentic shape of my ministry and seeing the need to work toward the change of systemic practice and understanding in the life of the Annual Conference. It has created a decidedly unsettled feeling in my spirit.

How do I bear witness to the power and possibility of transformation in an unwieldy and cumbersome institution whose culture is permeated by suspicion, cynicism and apathy? How do I bear witness to the need to faithfully live in kairos (God’s time) in a culture that is obsessed with rapid answers? How do I bear witness to the possibility of shalom within a culture that struggles to be gentle with self and with other? At the risk of sounding petulant, how do I bear this witness in a community in which I don’t have a voice? Perhaps it’s only that I don’t have the voice that I think I should have. Perhaps I do have a voice, but it is that I don’t think I’m being heard. In any case, I’ve got to deal with my own perceptions of being voiceless or not being heard. I’ve tripped over my ego. It is time to be led in the next step of healing.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Authentically Living Into Change

For about a month I've been living with the knowledge that something has changed deep within me. The deep interior work of the Holy Spirit has brought deep healing and transformation into my life. When the Spirit's work hit critical mass in my spirit, the recognition of the change came quickly.

As quickly and easily has the change came to me, I've discovered that living into this change, into this new reality is an altogether different challenge. Throughout my ministry I've endeavored to live with all of the integrity and authenticity that I could muster. For the most part there have been few tectonic changes in my experience. This has given me the luxury of transitional living. Incorporation of new experiences, ideas and understandings have been experienced more like a steady flow rather than a earth shaking change. Because the most recent change has been so deep and so immediate I have floundered a bit.

Because of the profundity of the change I felt called and compelled to mark the change. I wanted to have an outward and visible sign of the interior and spiritual change. Due to the nature of the change itself, the most meaningful expression was shaving my head. This wasn’t about being a spectacle to the world and drawing attention to my self. I did it to have something that would be a reminder of the change that I’ve felt. It has been the constant reminder of transformation and surrender to God that I hoped it would be. Each day I've been approaching shaving as a spiritual discipline. I will offer my breath prayer and/or think of people I know who need prayer. This has been very helpful. But there is still a piece that is missing.

What I am now discovering is that nurturing the root of this change will take a level of discipline that I have very little experience in practicing. I have a new identity, a new self-conception, and with it must come new practices, deeper practices. Suddenly the image of new wine in old wine skins takes on a new depth of meaning. Daunting or not, this is my path, this is my journey. Lord, may each step be marked with the grace that has seen me this far.