Daily Archives: March 5

musings part four

The hard thing is that all too often we are left with the “No!” on our own, but to really take hold of the “Yes!” we require another or others or many to resonate the fulfilling work of the Spirit. We can dodge but we can’t commune unless there is agreement, and it is in this agreement with those who are likewise led by the Spirit knowingly or unknowingly that we see the positive work of Christ that washes away the lack and frustrations.

This leaves us with two ways of moving forward. We can move forward by dodging the “No!” and we move forward by embracing the all too rare “Yes!”.

I’ve bounced around “No!” for the most part in my life, finding “Yes!” in leading me to Wheaton where I discovered the depths and pull of the isolating Spirit. I found a “Yes!” when I decided against pursuing law as a career and decided to go to seminary. I felt a “Yes!” when I took up writing, the positive burst of joy in my soul becoming unmistakable as I did it.

I heard a “Yes!” when I began to pursue a PhD, with everything that needed to go right for it to work out, did go right, and some went more right than I could have ever expected. With Amy I had not only a “Yes!” but an “Of course!” So much of my life in interacting with women there was a curious wall. It didn’t work like it should and I didn’t know why. But with Amy it worked, it was easy, remains easy after about 3 years of being together in an intentional relationship. It took just about thirty four years to hear that yes.

Yet, most every “Yes!” remains unresolved still, as I wait for God’s timing and arrival. I leaped over the wall into the river and now have committed myself to each “Yes!” while learning how to better avoid each “No!”. But, for me, the curiosities come in that which are not fully “Yes!” yet have no taste of the “No!” about them. Ministry has this quality. I am open to it because there is no “No!”.

Pursuing a vocation as a writer has this quality for me because while I feel the “Yes!” about writing, the details are left unresolved. Even as a grand “Yes!” occurred with one book, the second book that was accepted for publishing was initially given a yes, but that yes happened in September of 2008, and still no word on when it is going to get into print. And I certainly have not made very much money in writing. Hardly any, in fact.

But even still, I try to cling to hope, even with the mystery of why so many aspects are still “no!” and even some that were “Yes!” aren’t quite as settled as I once hoped.

Embracing the mystery in all areas is an exploration, an exploration of hope and of risk. Not physical risk, but emotional and spiritual risk, as I seek to step directions without knowing why, or for what, or any expected results. I yearn but I learn to yearn without absolute expectation because at the root of all my yearning is to embrace the Spirit above all. I learn to hear, and watch, and wait, and discover the nuances of the Spirit’s guidance in pushing me peculiar directions.

I do this because the hope of maturity isn’t simply about avoiding the bloody legs caused by thorns on each side of the path. It is because in embracing the peculiar work of the Spirit, by embracing that which is foolishness to the Greeks and a scandal to the Jews, I not only learn how to walk, but also how to run.

Then when I learn to run I begin to dance, and suddenly the rapture of the Spirit in life or in death, beaten and mangled or blessed and confirmed, is constant. I move to the rhythm of the Spirit and discover the fullness of God’s eternity even in this present, resonating this to others as they join in this dance. I become in full what I’ve only been in part.

I have to be careful because I’m not dancing yet. I am still learning, still wandering, still seeking without hearing fully. So, I wait. Like the disciples waited, praying for the Spirit to bring a “Yes!” but less and less willing to force any yes upon my life that is not ordained. This leaves me in somewhat isolation, except for notable even if mysterious, exceptions.

This all is the nature of the Spirit, however.

Where else will I go?

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musings part three

I was thinking about the thoughts in the last post, and the curious stages of development I mentioned, and the disciples came to mind.

We read Peter and the others, in Acts or their letters, and see the profound faith, and fluidity of their spiritual walk. But there’s that curious passage from John 6, which follows the disciples hearing a teaching they don’t know how to accept, and which caused many to walk away:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life ; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life . 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him.

65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life . 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

“Does this offend you?” That’s the question before us. Are we willing to let go our selves and throw ourselves into the Spirit, even if this means letting go those promises of a which we are told make the supposedly happy life, full of friendships, and children, and career success, and financial security? Are we willing to endure the gap between our stepping away from this world and the discovery of the Spirit’s deeper blessings?

We are to refuse to step into positions prematurely no matter the temptations that presented opportunities to do so. We refuse because we hear that “No!” ever more clearly and distinctly in every area, and as we wait we are increasingly primed and allowing the tension to build for that expected “Yes!”.

We don’t say, “Hooray!” for Christ in our life’s blessings as first. We find ourselves stuck between there and here. Unable to go back, blind to the future. If we embrace Christ we don’t see instant light, instead we say, “Where else will we go, You have the words of eternal life.” And in saying this our faith becomes real and the opportunities, sometimes ludicrous opportunities of the Spirit for future profound blessings, begins to open up.

I think of Paul. Who also had a great “Yes!” in his life. His “Yes!” came after the most stark “No!” imaginable. He was blinded and thrown to the ground. He was given a “Yes!” that was in entire contrast to everything he had previously assumed or expected, but this “Yes!” was also his “No!”. He turned around and was shown that his “No!” to his previous path in life was Christ’s “Yes!”. This took a bit of work, but the results in him and around him still resonate to our day.

We’re not given that same stark choice for the most part, with our transition often being a significantly longer process. We tend to remain blinded as we stumble about, but the message is so often the same. We have been given time to find the maturity Paul found in an instant. But, so often we are told by Christ before us, “It hurts you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14). Following the “No!”, kicking against the goads, becomes increasingly painful, so we learn not to do it, even if we haven’t been yet shown what we should do. I have a lot of experiences like this. Most people who I know who have truly found their life with Christ have experienced the same.

We leap off the cliff into the cloud of unknowing, trusting, believing, hoping, praying that the desires and promises we have been given haven’t been entirely lost even as we increasingly let them go. Our versions hold us back. Our expectations pull us down. We lighten the load by letting go these things, not knowing if we will ever see them, or anything palpable again.

Between “No!” and “Yes!” there are often great gaps, and mysteries which refuse to resolve. But we embrace these mysteries because that’s all we have. We look back and wonder about previous choices. With regret if we are low. With hope if our eyes are forward, knowing we let go for a reason and reasons more potent than we can even imagine.

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musings part two

Jesus calls. We think we see the light. But we don’t recognize the light for what it is. At first Jesus holds us by the hand. Then he lets go, with expectations. We are to walk his way, think his way, embrace the way. Only in the process of our inner reformation all our hopes become conflicted and we are left again with stark choices to follow or not to follow, choices that appear every day and just about every moment. As we embrace these choices we hear the Spirit and begin to find fluidity in our walk.

One way of embracing these choices is to leap fully into the river of the Spirit, deciding to make life most fully dependent on the Spirit’s salvation. This way offers many less choices, but it also flirts more with despair, as the Spirit doesn’t move any quicker or open more doors except the ones that were always meant to open. And in choosing this path, it is like we give the Spirit permission to shut every other door, asking for God’s guidance. It is the cloud at night and the pillar of fire during the day. We stop when it stops. We go when it goes. We don’t, and increasingly can’t, wander off to other distractions.

This is the monastic path, and whether permanent or temporary, it forces the person to look upwards and find the Life in the midst of the darkness, learning perseverance and patience and thanksgiving. This is the direction God threw me into years ago. I was “saved” in a way from making wrong choices on women to ask out, or responsibilities to take up, or offers to embrace because I learn I need to put myself into a situation of silence and waiting and wilderness.

My life has clarity when I do this. I wait for the Spirit, and while I do occasionally have curious opportunities I can pursue, the weight of the Spirit has continued to work to help understand the profound differences between the Spirit’s “no!” and the Spirit’s “Yes!”. I try not to flirt with the former any more, even as I continue to make choices that reflect this, because there is such a stark difference between peace and not peace.

I am a buoy floating on the ocean. When I become untethered to my source, and I endure the full force of the tempest. When I step away from the Spirit and I feel the knives. I feel the torture. I feel the utter and devastating pain. I feel every slice, every cut, every tearing and searing and breaking. So I avoid that which says “No!” because it may not change my state of life and death but it absolutely changes my sense of peace or no peace.

With the Spirit I watch, and observe, and even analyze, taking notes on their methods for future reference. The goal is to walk smoothly through this life no matter what happens, or doesn’t happen, good or bad. To walk with hope and fullness of joy with each step, resonating these so that others are renewed.

I’m not there yet. But I’m learning. Every day in both the ups and the downs.

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