It’s the end of the world as I know it…but I feel fine.

in-the-doldrumsMoving to Iowa, clearly the worst financial move I have made yet.  And yet, I feel fine.  Why – some existential or stoic abandonment? – No.  It seems that a number of ingredients have all worked themselves together to to give me the most wonderful taste of fatherhood.  No, not my being a father, but God’s.  Although, my being a father certainly has been an essential ingredient.

It is no wonder at all, that at the same time I have been contemplating the pure love and worship that has been filling my heart these days that Pastor Troy would, after stripping the box away from the parable of the soils (Matthew 13), describe the ‘crop’ of the good soil in a new way.  Not in ‘souls’ harvested nor spiritual fruit exhibited.  Actually, I’m not sure I heard exactly how he explained it – but I knew the spiritual ‘return’ I have been experiencing of late – growth unprecedented since Jesus pulled me up from the grave (Psalm 116), now exactly 20 years ago.  The same day I decided to start the book ‘The Ten most common mistakes made by new church starts’ (before finishing the other 3 books I have also started!).  The first chapter: ‘Neglecting the Great Commandment in Pursuit of the Great Commission’ (Matthew 22 & 28).  OK, while pastoring, I made that first mistake made very well!  Seems simple enough and makes perfect sense.  I know I surely have been guilty – busy doing for God and neglecting the ‘act’ of simply loving God.

First ingredient: Dabbling between cultures (American and Mexican) since 1996 and truly living in them (married in 2000), has been a rewarding, challenging, and often isolating experience.  To live above poverty, below prosperity and yet with both clearly in sight and in family.  Always letting go of the past and forging anew (Philippians 3) with one foot in each world (yet in a world that seems to want to pull those cultures further apart rather than growing them closer together – as we are).  Pressing on knowing that the only true culture that matters is Christ’s culture – all else is transitory and fading.

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 4).

Second ingredient, in 2004, I very reluctantly resigned my bi-vocational pastoral position.  It was clear to me that God has called me to be a pastor and He has given me a pastor’s heart, but it was also clear to me that He would be setting the priorities and to continue would be putting a church mission before the welfare of my marriage and growing family.  Of even greater concern, it would be putting the mission before God Himself.

He was in the whisper that would wake me in the night and tell me quietly and clearly – to let go.  Letting go, surrendering, giving up, are all things quite foreign to me.  Ask anyone who knows me well – tenacity, even stubbornness is a very strong characteristic handed down to me from both sides of my family.  Each morning I would awaken to the conviction – if I simply have more faith – that’s what I’ll DO, I’ll have more faith.  Letting go would surely be a lack of faith!  Just a test – just a test indeed (I had no idea its extent).  And again, that voice in the middle of the night when the body and mind are finally in a state of almost catatonic defenselessness – Let go, I am the one who lifts you up, or brings you down.  You will take up what I tell you take up, AND you must put down what I tell you to put down (1 Peter 5).  You must let go of what you cannot hang on to.  But I just need more faith – yes, just more faith – to let go now could be costly – I have been counseled that it is better to get somewhere from somewhere, meaning it may be difficult to find a pastorate, without one.

Well, teaching me to follow Him even when it seems foolish or will certainly leave me looking foolish (1 Cor 3), has been His favorite lesson so this wasn’t necessarily new.  But I’m a slow and stubborn learner, and this is an essential lesson.

Letting Go.

In clearly one of the most difficult decisions, of obedience, in my life of following Christ, and there have been some biggies, I resigned.  Yet naively, with full confidence that God would open the door for a fulltime pastorate, very soon.  Yes, very soon.  But the months turned to years.  Graduation came and went (after seven years of study!).  I watched as peers found their ‘niches’, albeit not without their struggles, but in their niches nonetheless.

Third ingredient, while I floundered, withered, wrestled with anger, and all the while with nowhere to call home much less a ‘ministerial’ home; my ‘career’ drifted just as aimlessly – with my focus set solely upon ministry.  Alas, in desperation really, the green pastures of Iowa beckoned.  No, not to a pastorate, but for an opportunity to gain some ‘new experience’ (always good to diversify!), pay off debts and achieve a level of financial stability that would better allow us to enter ministry.  Or maybe just try to forget the burden on my heart.

The housing crash dashed those hopes on the rocks, decidedly.  It has turned out to be an accelerated year of letting go.  Letting go of what retirement I had grown (my plan c for being able to fund a future mission ministry) and soon letting go of our home in Phoenix and what had been excellent credit (only matters if you are wanting loans I guess – and I’m not).  Had I simply listened to counsel and let go of the latter earlier – we might not have had to let go of the former.  But that again goes against my nature though (see above) and as I am coming to see, against what God has been doing in my life.  No, He is not against me (although a few times I have wondered).  He is not against me, just against anything and everything that would keep me from Him.

Fourth ingredient, I have lived in Midian for a number of years now.  No, not geography for me.  It was for Moses though (Exodus 2).  I am sure hoping it will be less than 40 years for me though.  No, Midian was a desert (God forsaken I’m sure as far as Moses was concerned).  Moses was a man burdened with a pastor’s heart also – but nothing he could DO worked out so well.  Nonetheless God provided for him a beautiful wife, children, wise counsel, and not his dream job, but a job nonetheless.  I am certain the burden of Moses heart never left him and he often wondered if his choices had led God to discard him for use (not eternally, just for use).

It’s ironic that I left the arid southwest to find myself deeper in the desert desert-springwilderness than ever before!  But it is here that I have set myself down exhausted, next to a small spring to drink (Psalm 63).  And drinking deeply I have been.  I mentioned that my being a father has been an important ingredient and it has.  There is nothing like experiencing the well of love that seems to overflow for our own children – that love that would lead one to readily give up everything, even life itself for your children to be able to experience life, and love.

Lifted Up.

Final ingredient, the spice of life, there is nothing like being a father to show a person, the love God the father has for us.
It has been tremendous to have a time of inner reconciliation with several past chapters of life and to have them unchained in a sense.  But nothing has compared to truly drawing close to my heavenly father who has looked down and called me son.  A son in whom He is well pleased.  A son who can DO nothing to get closer to Him but stretch his arms upward and say ‘Daddy, carry me!’  (Romans 8).  There is no greater high, no greater freedom, no sweeter exhilaration, than that (and I have searched diligently in my day!).  Be still and know that I am God.  It took so much ‘letting go’ to find out that He would never let me go, never.  He doesn’t let go (John 14), and he routinely lifts me to speechless heights I never thought possible.  There are no words for the joy found there in Him.  None.  So simple, and yet so overlooked.

No, circumstances are tough and not what I would have chosen.  I would not have chosen to enter the doldrums (to change metaphors yet again!) that place on the ocean where there are no waves and no wind – the place that drove many sailors mad.  But in the middle of these circumstances and the stillness of the air I have rediscovered my treasure – God Himself.  And wait – is that a breeze I feel?  Yes it surely is…

created-for-worshipLet those who have ears to hear.

Hear – that the Kingdom of Heaven is here now (Matthew 13) if you will simply let go of your sins and yourself and let Jesus Christ take hold of you and free you to be the person He created you to be.   So much more than simply a repentant and saved sinner!  So much more!

Yes it is the end of the world as I know it, but I feel fine….yes, indeed, never finer!

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2 Comments

  1. Jonathan said,

    February 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I thought I had it rough… After graduating seminary over the summer God told me to quit my part time job and wait for a job, but a non-ministry job. Things were going well at my part time job and very likely could have moved into a full time position, but God didn’t want me to go there, which is kind of detrimental to the resume since I really don’t have solid work experience. I thought God would provide a job pretty soon, but a month turned into two, and then more. And still I wait.

    Fortunately, my living situation is very well provided and my pressure is really internal and not external. I don’t have a family to provide for. Of course, the other part is that some people keep asking me what I’m doing, and there is a nagging voice that tells me I’ve been a failure. I know they don’t know what I know, so trying to reason with people is pointless. I could just do something, but God keeps telling me to wait. God got me this far, how could I rebel?

    Waiting is so much harder than just doing something. I’m waiting for that door to open. And when it does – I’m sprinting.

    • Z said,

      February 10, 2009 at 8:08 pm

      I do know that nagging voice! And I’m sprinting too! thanks for the comments


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