Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Familiar Friends

Have you ever found yourself thinking differently than most on a subject and wondered if anyone else may has some of the same questions as you but everyone's just intimidated or frightened of what might happen?
What about one of those moments when you decide to just come right out and say what you're actually thinking afraid of the consequence and you receive a surprising yet agreeing smile. Almost as though the other person was just waiting for someone else to take that plunge first.
There are many pieces of life which call for attention to personal growth because for some reason I feel as though I need to have reached a certain point of maturity before such things occur. As much as this may spiral into a whirlpool of self-defeat (the roots of which meander much deeper than I'd care to admit), it's a learned behavior from which I find myself seeking redemption. Nonetheless I wrestle with the truth of God's unending, often unrequited, but most certainly undeserved love for me in the midst of the struggle.
Alas, I meandered (not unlike the aforementioned roots) away from my point. A new pastor attempting to blaze a trail through an open field of seemingly countless choices. A new child forming in the womb of my too beautiful gift of a wife. A new age of determined tearing and mending of spiritual, physical, and emotional muscle after years of neglect and ruin. This is the landscape of life as we each sit in our respective places, me writing down the uneven nature of my thoughts, and you attempting to navigate this tangled web weaved for you.
Newness abounds, anticipation lurks, that ever elusive reality of contentment just beyond one's reach somehow comes closer. In world of never good enough I fear that this might just be the good enough I've longed for and I'm terrified. After years of feeling as though I can't quite keep up, or I need to do something else to win the affection of those around me, I am challenged to consider the truth of God's love without attached strings. Who am I trying to please anyway? Idols take on all forms, even the prospect of service can become such and it's something I must be ever aware of.
It seems as though the winds of change are blowing and I'm perplexed by the uncontrollable nature of the wind as it tosses the trees about outside my office window. In the same way I am perplexed by the uncontrollable nature of life and the change that comes with it. It is interesting to me that we can attempt to harness the power of the wind but we can never control it. It's an illusion that we "control" it, in fact it's an illusion that we control anything. We decide that we're in control of something so that we can remain comfortable, we can feel less threatened by that which is unknown.
So it is with this newness in front of me, I'm discovering the less I hold tightly to the things around me, the more freedom there is to just be. A good friend and coworker pinpointed something that scares me substantially, leading out of character and not competency. As mentioned already, I've only ever found value in myself if I can perform or produce something, but what if I can't? Am I inherently unlovable? What if who I am will leave a much more lasting impression on those around me than what I can do? What if my contribution to society rests more in understanding how God sees me and reflecting that to others? What if I can do nothing other than be who it is I've not wanted to admit to being?
Mike Yaconelli, a hero of mine these days, challenges my perceptions quite consistently with his own from his writing. He's dead now, unfortunately for us, but before he went home he left some thoughts in the form of a book called Dangerous Wonder which reflects on child-like faith that should maybe stay child-like in some very significant ways. Here's what he proposes:
Eugene Peterson pointed out once that most of us spend our live "impersonating ourselves." Children are who they are. It doesn't take long before we have convinced them that they are what they wear, or what they do, or what they have, or what they look like. But, if our children are lucky, we convince them early on to resist caricature or illusion. Once we decide, no matter how early in our lives, to quit listening to the way we are made, we begin to lose our God hearing...The moment we deny God's fingerprint on our soul, the instant we stop listening to our uniqueness, our God hearing starts to deteriorate...Jeremiah discovered that to deny the way he was made was to deny "his word," God's voice, God's whispering presence in his life. Jeremiah wrestled all his life with the truth that God's calling is God calling. (pp. 95-96). 
Yaconelli drew from Jeremiah 20, where Jeremiah had been beaten by some angry people for telling them what they didn't want to hear, ultimately the truth of God. He was a bit bothered by the outcome of God calling on him, but he knew he had no other way. Sometimes I can see where he's coming from. For me, it's not because I'm weary of being beaten by people, it's more a matter of recognizing the very disconcerting reality that change and growth hurt, but the pain produces something good. It's like Paul said in Romans 5, suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. To develop character, I need to hurt. To hurt is uncomfortable, and to be uncomfortable is outside of everything our culture strives for. And ultimately, I need to be ok with people being uncomfortable with me to help them grow as well.
I can imagine some kind of dream of who I'd like to be, I want to make sure that will look more like Jesus than anything else and that's going to require a lot of suffering to get there. It's like training for and running an endurance run (for me it's half marathon distance). You know that in order to go further you need to push beyond the threshold of what your body is currently comfortable with, that's the only way to grow. Before muscles can grow they need to be torn. I know it's a reality of physical life, but what I often forget is how it is very real for the spiritual as well. Much newness is here and on the horizon, some muscles need to be torn yet before they can rebuild and get stronger. Character building hurts, but I'm discovering just how much God loves to restore that which has been torn.
So maybe it's ok to be the one who steps out on a limb to see how far I can go before it breaks. Maybe part of my hearing God calling is to be willing to be uncomfortable and then bring others with me. Maybe I need to be the first to break the silence when I think differently on something. Not for the sake of disturbing but for the sake of providing space for God to produce perseverance, character, and hope.