Monday, July 26, 2010

The "Maybe" Phase

Every once in a while I read something surprising that describes my journey with Christ with jaw-dropping clarity. I see things in a new light that breathes into my soul fresh hope and vision for the dark road beneath my feet. Today it came from the book "Soul Repair" by Jeff VanVonderen, Dale Ryan and Juanita Ryan, a profound work describing the process by which God rebuilds the soul.

The authors take some time in the first half of the book discussing various "Distorted" spiritualities, spiritualities that have at the center of their practice wrong views of God. Abusive, Anorexic, Addictive, and Codependent spiritualities are described with great detail. I found myself resonating with each of these destructive spiritualities, which are mostly driven by shame and fear.

The second half of the book discusses the re-building process under the heading "Tools for Reconstruction." I have just been working through the first chapter of this section entitled, "Beginning to Rebuild." Some highlights: All relationships (including our relationship with God) flow on several continuums: between face-to-face intimacy and cautious distance, and between shame and loving respect. The healthiest relationships are those with intimate respect, the most unhealthy are those with both shame and distance.

The route from shame/distance to intimate respect is not quick and easy. It involves what the authors lay out as a 3 step movement that generally holds true to this journey (they never imply that it is an easy and clear cut progression; rather we often inhabit all 3 movements at different times and in different ways). The three movements are:


"No" involves saying no to our false gods at the center of our distorted spiritualities. We say no to the gods we have fashioned in our own images (or in the image of others), because we have come to the end of ourselves in their wake. We become tired of serving these false gods and decide, often in desperation, to turn our backs on them.

Saying no is not easy, for it can result in gut-wrenching emptiness and confusion. Our foundations are rocked to the core, and we are, quite literally, broken. There is also great shame here, when we realize that saying "no" doesn't immediately result in the whole-hearted "yes" that we long for. Others often add to this shame, questioning our commitment to spiritual things. We often wander for a while, wondering if we've ever really heard God speak or seen His true face; we question everything. I would say I've been in this phase for the greater part of the last 8-9 years.

The next step is what I mostly want to write about here, the "Maybe" phase of this rebuilding process. This is where we have said "no" in significant ways to false gods, our own self-hatred and shame, and begun to desire to trust God again, the true God. Over time, we find that the true God revealed in Jesus is gracious and patient with us in this process. He is not angry with us for "wasting time," but eagerly desires our fellowship. He doesn't force himself on us (what false gods do), but waits for us to calm down from the frenzy of living a false life.

We are not yet able to say an unequivocal "yes" to God; we are only able to say "maybe." We are testing the waters out, to see if this God is any different from the abusive gods that we have known in the past. We are just like the man who said, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mk 9:24 NIV). There is also shame here, in this place of maybe. We mistakenly feel like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:14ff who were neither cold nor not, disgusting to God. In reality, our brokenness is an offering of worship to Him (Ps 51:17) and is making space for His Spirit.

Two components of the Maybe stage are what the authors call Hypervigilance and Dissociation. I would add that these are two sides of the same coin of self-protection.

Hypervigilance is the side of self-protection that is active and aggressive. It is the state of always being on alert, surveying the horizon for any possible threats and where perceived, attacking with full force. This is very tiring! We are never really able to rest or relax. For me, this results in frequent anxiety, a feeling of impending doom that is just over the horizon.

Dissociation is the bunker side of self-protection, where we retreat and our hearts turn numb and cold. We stop taking risks and "play it safe." We only wade in "safe" relationships, and we avoid seeking new ones for fear that we will be hurt again.

In this place of maybe there is great hope, because God meets with me there. He is not impatient with my "wasted time" between No and Yes, but eagerly desires my heart wherever it is found. I am beginning to grow in excitement again as I consider this soul renovation project that he began (not me!). I can see myself cycle back and forth between No-Maybe-Yes more and more frequently in the last 6 months. Tendrils of hope, faith and trust are beginning to emerge, gently but unavoidably leaning me toward more open-hearted trust in God.

As I allow myself permission to dwell in this maybe place, despising the shame, I find myself more open to saying Yes to God. He has proven Himself to me time and time again, that he is not out to "use" me and then throw me away, but he longs for my heart to be one with His. I need to be more at home in this "Maybe" phase, not just so I can get to "Yes," but so that I can be at home with God.

Powered by ScribeFire.

No comments: