One Down, and One Big Lesson Learned

Dear friends, I am happy to announce that, as of yesterday at 2:00 PM, I have completed my first full semester of divinity school/seminary! [SIGH] Praise the Lord for helping me through it, but more than that, for all He has been teaching me, "on the court" and off.

It is somewhat ironic that the day before my final final examination, God granted me a spiritual breakthrough. You may have noticed that I've been relatively "quiet" in terms of blogging involvement (and undeniably in terms of content) over the past few months, and that has been due not in small part to the class workload (while trying to care for a two-year-old, no less). But I have also suffered from a spiritual drought unparalleled since the epistemological crisis following my senior year of college. Unhealthy idealism led to greener grass syndrome of the ecclesiastical type. And this at just the time when we needed more desperately than ever a worshipping community in which to truly belong and find support. In short, the lack of belongingness was the virus largely responsible for the 'syndrome', but little did we recognize (let alone admit) that we were partly (if not primarily) at fault.

Allow me to share a few snippets from my journal entry Monday night, which I think capture the spirit of the experience:

Today I've learned a lesson that I will never forget.

I've been pleading with God to speak to me, and then closing my ears to His answers. I thought I knew what was best, and so I didn't let myself hear anything to the contrary...

Now that God has broken my pride--which had been manifest in so many ways over the last several months--He has enabled me to see His hand leading us toward the right path all along, making provision, if only we would accept it.

I feel as if a massive burden has been lifted from my shoulders--the burden of trying to control my destiny. Finally I'm free to let God do in and through me what He wants to.


Could it be that, at one point or another, you have felt the overwhelming weight of every word and decision as significant to your destiny in God's overall plan? Have you overanalyzed your life circumstances to the point that you have been rendered nearly helpless spiritually? Are you worried about the eternal effects of every conversation--spinning everything in just the right way so as to achieve a particular result--and every decision, as if somehow you were in the driver's seat of your life's ultimate end? Not only is this based on a lie propositionally, but experientially as well.

The big lesson I have had to learn (the hard way) over the last few months is this: When I obsess over outcomes, speaking and choosing ever so scrupulously in light of ultimate consequences, I automatically simultaneously cease trusting God and cease being in authentic relationship with others and myself. That's not to say that we ought not consider in advance the effects of our actions, for to do so would be utter foolishness, biblically speaking. But there is a threshold that we cross when we become overly preoccupied with results.

A good friend of mine makes it a point to avoid counting numbers of participants in his ministry setting as much as possible. While this is an exercise that is certain to discourage the kind of obsession about which I'm offering admonishment, it's only a small part of a bigger solution. The meta-solution, simply put, is "Stop worrying!" And part of not worrying is not allowing your idealism to incite judgment of the unbiblical variety (yes, there is a biblical kind). When we allow ourselves to associate with, even learn from, those with whom we differ ideologically (and theologically!), we free ourselves to experience God's wisdom more fully, and at the same time, are agents of His love in the world.

To return to my story, we have decided to plug in and serve in a ministry context that has aspects we don't necessarily support (like Sunday sermon simulcasting). But nevertheless, we believe God has led us here to learn, experience spiritual community, and develop vitally as ministers of the Gospel. May you allow God the same freedom to lead you down avenues and alleyways that you might have otherwise ideologically avoided. You will find a certain humility in it, which, I believe, will pay off in Kingdom currency of a greater quantity and quality than "going it alone" with an inopportunely lofty ideal. Again, by no means am I discouraging you from stepping out in faith based on conviction formed in harmony with God's Word. But I am saying that we ought not put God in a box by ruling out less-than-ideal contexts in which for Him to work in and through us. That is the pride of which I have been guilty, in reality, for the last two to three years.

Praise God for turning this area of my heart, finally, back to Him, that I might live in the marvelous light of His sovereign provision! To Him be all glory, honor and praise, now and forever.

Amen.

P. S. Give me a call if you'd like to hear "the rest of the story", i. e. the details. I would treasure the occasion to share on a more personal level how God is working in our situation.

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