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.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I know this is an older post, but I haven't checked your blog in a while.

Anyway, I completely identify with you on this. Those unknown years of some of the greatest saints give me hope that God is at work in this time in my life where my view of the forest is often being blocked by some ugly and scary trees.

And I have often had the same thoughts for where you are. Don't lose faith, brother.

This passage has been coming to my mind a lot lately. John 6:67-69: "Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?' Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'"

Feelings of wanting to chuck it all are not uncommon with me. But I know faith must continue, because what other choice do I have, really, when I have been with Jesus for even one minute?