Friday, June 5, 2009

Warrensburg, Missouri (part 1: My Spiritual Distress Calmed)

Bill (in Topeka) had warned us about Missouri roads (with potholes and no shoulders) and hills. The ride out of the city was a little complicated, but safe. The hills were manageable. Eventually we hit highway 50 and started to make good time.

It's tough to dredge up memories from that ride... it was a while ago and I'm not sure how to describe my mood. God had taught me that my outlook on spiritual matters and the purpose of my journey was causing me distress. That was a cause of unease starting even before we left on the trip.

I had romantic or perhaps utopic expectations (or notions) for my journey. You read stories in the Bible about men who go on journeys and interact with God and their stories all seem so grand. I think that I had a deep-seated fear that I would slip up somehow. How would I know exactly what to do at each stop? I feared maybe I was doing something wrong at times. The Bible describes encounters with God and the movement of the Spirit and I was unsure about how exactly I was being instructed to act. I had made my mission statement, but have never known what I would learn. I defined my ideas for trying to connect with God, but what if I missed something important? I didn't really want my pursuit of God to be so structured and even though I've tried to make it structured (by reading the Bible at various break points or praying for a designated period of time) it certainly hasn't worked out the way I plan most of the time. And I think that's okay.

I am a perfectionist and a planner. God's been slowly chipping away at that part of my personality because some things are beyond my control, but I still have a slight tendency to want things to go perfectly according to plan. That said, I haven't planned out much at all for this trip, which may be a good thing from this perspective.

So, will my trip be just like those experiences I've read about in the Bible? It didn't seem to be going that way. Did that mean my mission was a failure or that I'm missing something? I don't think so. The Bible seems to make these stories spectacular. I hold these stories in high regard. Amazing events and miracles take place. There is little explanation in some parts as to how the "characters" react to said events and miracles (i.e. what are their feelings, how do they view God and what He's doing). Was God's purpose for them all drawn out in bold letters that were easy to follow step-by-step? God's instructions seem so clear in the Old Testament. God certainly isn't guiding me that way. That doesn't nullify my mission. Are the people I encounter and meet on the way coincidence or God-planned? I believe there has been a special connection between me and everyone I've met so far that I don't deem as mere coincidence.

In any case, I guess I've had little foundation for my interactions with God. Unfortunately, the Bible seems to often describe events and peoples' actions without describing their feelings and emotions during those connections to God's wonders. And so, I was expecting my journey to all make sense. It all seemed mapped out pretty well in the Bible. As a result, I was trying to be "hyper-spiritual." I wanted to be able to explain everything that happened from a spiritual perspective. That includes my exposure to the ideas of spiritual warfare, speaking in tongues, prophesying, and seeing spiritual beings (like angels and demons). Trying to explain those things to myself, to logically examine them, sort of hurt my brain and tore a little at my heart. Without being raised with those aspects of faith, I struggled, wondering if something was wrong with me if I didn't understand or practice them. Here are some words I wrote after God calmed my heart about those worries:

"I was afraid there was something I should be doing, but was not. How do I know what to do, what to think, what to believe everywhere I go? I am presented with new ideas and new experiences everywhere. I have so much to learn. When I encounter something new I don't always know how to react.

"Those new ideas can complicate things. My thoughts, my faith, whatnot. I will hold fast to my core. To love God with all my heart, soul, and mind and to love my neighbors as myself. I can do that with relative ease. I believe it and I live it. Then there is a confusion about specific practices, seeing spiritual things, etc. that I simply don't know what to do. I will do whatever God tells me to. I won't be afraid of judgement if I do not believe exactly what others believe. God will show me the truth if/when it is time.

"I fell prey to something my pastor Michael warned me about. I was trying to be hyper-spiritual. I was looking for a spiritual reason for everything. My imagination would run wild as a child when reading the Old Testament. Were those stories how I should be experiencing God now? My heart became pressed to find the source of my frustration. It lie in my confusion about spiritual things I could not see nor had any experience with that kept coming up. Am I doing something wrong if I don't know what to believe in regards to spiritual attacks or angels or demons or speaking in tongues or prophesying? I don't understand those things and it made me feel wrong not to understand.

"Well, God called me back to Him in the last couple of days (because I was struggling with those complicated ideas and torn away from the truths I know). He wanted me to understand that I interact with Him in a different way than anyone else. I am no one's carbon copy. God reveals Himself in different ways and gives different instruction to everyone. I simply go where He tells me and leave my preconceived notions and scared anticipation behind." (6/1 ~1:30pm)

I don't think it's hard to see God's work just about anywhere and I believe we can see His work if we open our eyes to it. Still, my version of seeking His activeness everywhere was both overcomplicated, confusing, and unbeneficial. In the end, I must hold to the foundations built in my heart, seek God's truth, not lose sight of the whole in the midst complicating factors, and trust God has me in hand.

1 comment:

  1. It's so easy to remember the "good" Bible stories and think they represent the norms for the characters we encounter. There were planty of lows. David's story in particular has lots of them. Read through the narrative of 1 & 2 Samuel and see how he was chased. How his own children fought and rebelled and he was at a loss how to handle them.

    If you want to get a sense of how he felt, read the psalms: they are full of David's reflections. Be careful dwelling too much in the Psalms. An old friend of ours read the Psalms several times a year. He said they gave him a good sense of mortality, but that can also darken your mood and turn in too introspective.

    Michael's counsel is right. Life's meant to be lived with God in the real world. You won't find deep spiritual meaning in everything. I remember once long ago being at a campfire and someone wanting to "cast out the Demon mosquitos". I thought it was a bit funny. To me, they're just part of creation trying to get on with their purpose. To that person, they were interfering with her joy, so they must be demonic.

    I think it's great you have this concentrated time to collect all these experiences and thoughts and you are taking time to capture the recollections to share and process over the course of time.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy the rest in St. Louis this weekend.