12 October 2008

God in the Launching, in the Leaping, and in the Landing

For a little while now, I've been experiencing an interior shift that I can't quite name except to say that it feels like a gentle nudge to move from a posture of primary preoccupation with myself toward one of giving, offering, and pouring out for the benefit of others. Things I once thought I'd never live without, such as the chronicling of daily life and interior growth on my personal blog, have become less urgent while an awareness of impending participation in the greater mission of Christ has intensified.

As this sense has percolated the past several weeks, I've been content to simply notice its arrival and prepare myself to receive the change it carries. I have felt no need to clutch stubbornly to the way things have always been, and I have felt ready to receive what is new. Slowly, impressions began to form about what those changes could be. Opportunities began to present themselves. Much of this was open-ended and preliminary, and I found myself in a posture of prayer and thoughtfulness about what could eventually emerge.

Then, about a week ago, I found myself feeling confused, frightened, and alone. I found myself feeling small, helpless, and certain of failure. I sat in bed and told Kirk just how little I knew to do. I cried a lot of tears.

The next morning, I met with my spiritual director. I told her I wanted to explore this shift taking place in me and why I had begun to feel so scared and alone in it, when it had been growing quietly and painlessly for weeks. Why had my stress level spiked?

We talked about my experience of God in these places. I felt confident that God was in the nudging, in the preparing of me for this shift in posture, in the ushering in of something new . . . but in the decision-making and the planning and the moving forward, I couldn't sense him at all. I found myself believing he had left me alone to figure it out and make everything come to life. I found myself believing he expected me to get there on my own.

As K. and I kept talking, I discovered this is actually a familiar pattern. I could recall several transition points in my life that I attributed to God's sanctifying work, a prompting toward his intentional growth for my life. I embraced these movements of God in my spirit . . . and then proceeded to "work out" that sanctification process in my own power. When I involved him in the process, it was primarily as though reporting to a figurehead: him a superior to whom I told where I had been and what I had done in the accomplishment of the operation, as though defending just uses of resources given to me and the utilization of my own strong mind and constitution.

K. asked, as she often does, if I could recall a similar circumstance in my history of life experience. Had I ever been entrusted with responsibility and then left alone to carry it out?

While I knew there was likely more than one occasion in which this had happened, one in particular kept presenting itself at the forefront of my mind. In that instance, I'd accepted the responsibility to care for a situation without fully understanding what that responsibility required. In that instance, things got out of control and I was alone in trying to handle it. In that instance, I failed to keep the situation stable, there were dire outcomes, and I was held responsible. In that instance, the situation warranted greater strength than I actually carried, yet I was still entrusted to have been adequately equipped to handle it.

The challenge for me was then discerning where God was when all that happened. I went back into that moment and tried to get a sense of God's presence there. Where was he, and what was he doing? Why did he leave me there? Why did he let that happen?

In my mind's eye, I could see him sitting there with me in the aftermath, listening as I received the reprimand. I could see him nodding at me, telling me he understood the situation was unjust. And yet he did not intervene. He let things crumble around me and did nothing to save it. He let me take the fall and didn't put the truth in place. I carried the burden alone. God didn't lift a finger.

How could I trust he would lift a finger now?

I had to face God's passivity in that moment, and so I let him have it. Why didn't he rescue me that night? Why did he let that burden get handed to me at all? Didn't he see what became of it, how many lies I believed about myself and the rest of the world after that, how many years I believed everything would fall apart if I didn't hold everything together and do everything right?

Maybe we only serve a passive God, a God who spins circumstances into motion and then lets us deal with the rest.

I sat in K.'s living room with my eyes squeezed shut that morning, tears streaming down my face and my thoughts racing with anger and sadness, wondering what God could possibly say to me, wondering if he could possibly say anything at all that would begin to help me understand, that would begin to make anything better.

And slowly, like an onion, I felt him unraveling the cloth strips that were wrapped around my head, covering my eyes, the cause of blindness. Slowly, slowly, he unwrapped them in order to let me see. The weight of the cloths began to fall away. Dots of light began to shimmer on my eyelids. And quietly, gently, I heard him say to me: "My daughter, it is true. I did allow that to happen. I was there, and I did not lift my finger. But you see, I had a greater scope in mind. I saw a vision beyond the story you could see. There is the greater story of your life, and how I've planned to use you. Because of what you've carried, you can come alongside those who also carry these burdens. You can touch them, because you know how they feel. You know what it feels like to be where they are."

It isn't that God was absent. It isn't that he was uncaring. It's that he had a different aim in mind entirely.

In light of this revelation, K. is helping me see that perhaps now, too, I am not alone in what is coming. God does not prepare me for a great leap and then go back to his comfortable house while I make a jump for my life. He is here, the whole way, with me. He will be working his purposes in ways only he can know, in ways that may never be revealed in my lifetime.

As I prepare to take a jump into a whole new realm of being right now, I don't have to figure it all out ahead of time, in order to guard against failure or devastating outcomes. It is not all up to me. I am not alone in this. I can trust that he is with me not just in this preparation to launch, but also as I actually leap across the giant chasm, and eventually as I land on the other side.

Here's to the leaping, hand in hand with God, not having to do it perfectly, not having to do it alone.


Sarah said...

Oh lovely...I have tears in my eyes as I type this, tears for how you were hurt and tears for the beauty of your healing.

God is so strange, so foreign sometimes. He's got so much that he holds, so much that he sees that sometimes he seems like a foreigner who doesn't quite get it. And then we see, and it's like being transported to a different dimension altogether.

May your heart continue to heal, friend, and may you continue to find him on your path.

kirsten said...

as i was reading this, i thought of growing pains (not the kirk cameron-variety, obviously) -- of how growth hurts, of how when we're growing so much, it hurts and we become tired and so many other things.

as i read of how you hurt when God stood by and was silent, how you realized this in the aftermath, how you later realized that God's purposes for this experience were entirely other than you had understood them to be ... it's like you were being trained for what was to come. He wanted you to KNOW that you are not only prompted by Him, but that you jump with Him, and land with Him. how crazy-beautiful is that? and how else are we to learn it? truth is, i'm not sure that i've learned that at all -- what it means to know and then to jump with Him and to know He's with you in the landing.

i wonder what strange and beautiful things are unfolding for you, my lovely friend ...

peace to you,

Christianne said...

Sarah, I keep reading your paragraph right there about God seeming like a foreigner who just doesn't get it until, like a prism, the fractured light shifts and we really see. Transported to a different dimension? Yeah, that's a lot of how it felt that morning.

Kirsten, I can really identify with the hurt of growing that you describe. It's a kind of death, I think. At least, that's what it feels like right now . . . parts of myself are dying so that I can learn what it means to hold his hand as I jump, and keep holding as we fly through the air on our way to the other side. The tiredness you describe . . . yes.

It's comforting to think of all the led up to this as training for this moment, of that moment of clarity in K's living room as a training moment, too, that helps me trust him right now in the preparation to jump. He's showing me how he knows what he is doing. He's helping me trust him more.

The Gyrovague said...

My sister,

You might as well have written my spiritual biography right there. I know the feeling, although it is a deeply personal feeling so I don't pretend to say I know it all in your particular circumstance.

Step forward, walk boldly into the calling God is putting on your life and damn the rest. God has the reigns.

Scott R. Davis said...

Very well written on the subtle shifts that happen as we grow in Christ. A female author, Sue Monk Kidd, expressed similar views in God's Joyful Surprise. And a parallel work called When the Heart Waits is by her also. It also shares views of pilgrimage and growth from a female viewpoint just like Bunyan does in the Pilgrim's progress from a male viewpoint.

Peace to you in your growth and in your discipleship.

scott R. Davis
enjoy your visit there and tell others if you like.!!!

Joelle said...

Christianne, from a younger perspective it's encouraging to hear of your transition and growing. All these years of my life have seemed incredibly self-absorbed, consumed with self-discovery. And that's okay, but the time will come for moving beyond.... Grace to you as you walk on.