Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seasons of Fallow Ground?

The Lord, it seems, has called me to a season of seriously decreased activity in the spiritual life. My ability to read and process books is greatly diminished. Taking on too much religious activities is pretty dangerous. My soul is at low tide, and all attempts to "get the tide to come in" have failed. It is as if large swaths of my soul need to lie fallow for a season (an idea I was introduced by Judith Hougen's fabulous book, "Transformed Into Fire," a few years ago).

The problem comes in the expectations of my larger church community, mainly expressed through the preaching of the Word, but also through expressed values in a variety of discipleship contexts. It becomes clear that seasons such as this are not the norm, and may in fact be the result of hardening sin.

Some Scriptural examples of this spiritual reality are:
Moses and his 40 years of preparation in the desert;
Naomi in her time of bitterness preceding faith (book of Ruth)
The prophet Elijah at Horeb (1 Kings 19)
The prophet Jonah (Jonah 4)
Paul the apostle spent 3 years in obscurity before his public ministry (maybe longer - Galatians)
Jesus spent 30 years or so in obscurity before his ministry began;

These characters in God's Story "lost faith" for a time, where they were taken out of the context of external usefulness and into God's chamber of internal transformation alone. We are not told how long these characters stayed in that season, only that they did. This tells me, at the very least, that such seasons may be not only possible but an integral part of God's work in our lives.

I need that encouragement, because if I listen only to the larger community around me, I will despair. The "way that God works" is often very narrow and shallow, causing anyone who doesn't experience God's life that way to conclude that they may be heretics (not denying that there are essentials to cling to).

Nothing in this season is more discouraging than to feel the judgment of the Christian community in their assessment and proclamation of the spiritual life being something other than I am capable of (in God). Nothing is more encouraging than when a few patient souls discern a deep work going on that has God's distinct fingerprints on it. But that takes patient listening and a certain depth in themselves that helps to see such things.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Redeeming "the glory of God"

Phrases like this carry alot of weight. In my evangelical circles these days this particular phrase (a biblical one, I know; e.g. 1 Cor 10:31) is thrown around quite often. It's promoted as motivation for living and serving. Sometimes is it explained in a way that is helpful to me, other times not. Usually it implies this ethereal other-worldly source of motivation that only the people who have it together can get their hands on. People (normal people, like me) need to think through how our everyday, mundane humanity fits in with this phrase (and I'm convinced that it does, since Scripture teaches it).

Current day Pharisees emblazon their swords and shields with this phrase, often using it to keep people in line. No wonder, then, that some have trouble with it. It can became freighted with negative emotion; emotion that results from spiritual abuse and dysfunction in God's family.

I wish "do all things for the glory of God" were a desirable thing for me. It sounds like more rules, more disappointment, another club that I cannot be a part of because I'm too jacked up.

I want to hear about grace and how it makes us glorious for God, where "doing all for the glory of God" is a clear result of the amazing "grace of God." Instead, it is the "people of God" doing the "works of God."