The Journey, The Call, The Choice, The Walk & The Love:
(August 1, 2008)
In the counsels and will of God, just like you reading this, I entered the world as human baby. Not a surprise, really, gotta start somewhere. My journey was to begin as a male, lower-middle class, white kid. My stompin’ grounds were southeast D.C. and Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA. I am sure much of my growing up, my story, my experiences will overlap that of many 1950’s kids in mainstream America. Do I discuss all that? Maybe I could recount funny happenings, anecdotal gems, and the like. Still, there’s got to be a different way to approach – “The Journey” and those moments that stick out as unique and pivotal. I suppose I have thought about writing these happenings and feelings down for years – being encouraged by friends to do so in times past. I just never thought it worth the trouble. Now, with so much road behind me, and that sense that "home" could be just around the bend, I will settle in and start this tale of reflection.
Hmm, what do I remember? When you look at old pictures, they mean so many different things to each of us, one from one another. Some bring tears and another laughter – remembering is a private affair. Melancholy is the word for my inner song when I look back, not just nostalgia mind you; it’s more of a sense of chances missed, roads not taken. Then again, why even feel that way over what could have been? Languishing in “if only” and “I could have” is pointless, yes I know. In some way many of us, myself included, enjoy that languishing sport as it pushes aside the reality of the choices we made, the events of pain, the losses and the little ruts we find our lives in now. Looking back can be an escape, a pinning on of blame and sometimes healing. I hope for the healing, the reality check and the fullest acceptance of being in the right now.
I might wish I had been born into a wealthier, more arts and letters type background and thus to now be able to do, to have and experience unfulfilled dreams of yore. Something though, tells me that the wealthy-kid journey would have bypassed the treasure troves of lower middle-class determination and the burning desire to “rise above” and push harder. So, I am thankful to have walked that trail now as it strengthened me and gives me a sense of humility that I really need to walk The Journey.
I believe my parents did the best they could for me. Relatives were kind. Fun, love and care always seemed right there growing up. We may have not had all the “stuff” the other kids had but we got by just fine. I think that changed for me as I entered my teens when I desperately wanted a better car, that cherished brand-name guitar, to take music lessons even – just to fit in better with peers who had all that and more. So I worked, saved up and bought some “toys” which were not the best but better than having nothing at all. Yet, that gulf of the haves and have-nots widened for me. It also became clearer to me that I was not alone in the family in my feelings of lack. As I matured, I began to notice moreso the toll of debt piled up on my father’s back. Not enough money, cost of items and frustration over broken cars and such plagued nearly every hour of all conversations my parents had. Concern over the apparent lack of funds filled my psyche like a poison. With that sickness came a subtle erosion of self-confidence and resultant isolationist behavior. It was easier to be alone, on my own and apart from personified reminders of lack. Yeah, I know, sad. You can’t see it while it’s happening – it just happens.
Book sense, artistic skills and musical aptitude were strong points, each an oasis for my lonelier days. I took pride in my grades and my artistic skill. Teachers, parents, friends and relatives all praised my successes. I heard that phrase, “apply yourself and get ahead” often, reinforcing in me that where I was – was not the best place I could be. There was that nebulous “better off” place out there waiting for me. Now, I can see why so many of us seem unfulfilled upon adulthood. Nobody told us that “better off” place doesn’t exist!
I did very well in scholarly and artsy pursuits but deep down I desired something intangible – to find that certain love. Like Adam, all around me was the very good things but no one person to deeply share it with. Parents, siblings, and just never seemed to me the exact ones to share with that deepest love of being alive. I was in search of my Eve. An old, old tale I realize but it keeps on being retold year after year. Love is a hunger, a well overflowing.
Eves came and went, some closer to touching and filling that hunger but most were crushed by my overwhelming desire to over cherish them and I smothered them I guess. Like butterflies needing to flitter and flutter each escaped my grasp when they saw the gilded cage I had for them. I foolishly tried to hold still their quicksilver beauty -- as I was too busy trying to see my own reflection in each Eve rather than letting her be herself.
In the counsels and will of God, after losing grip on a quicksilver love, I came face to face with The Call and The Choice. I won’t bore you with details but be it known, that somehow the agelessly seeking, Spirit of God spoke to my heart about my quest for love, for that “better off place” just around the bend. Suddenly, beyond this veil of tears I was shedding, I saw exactly why that “better off” place was unattainable in my own heart’s journey. My heart had treasured a trail that was an endless weaving and wandering dead-end. My faith was in my own mind’s strength and the power I could muster from within. Being at the end of our very limited selves is when we can best hear The Call and see The Choice. The Call and The Choice was Jesus. I bowed the knees of my soul and mind and welcomed Him and healing into what was left of me at that hour.
No preacher’s altar call, no mournful choirs, no maze of church pews framed that moment. A meager set of middle-class furniture, a rug, at home alone with a Bible – I was embraced by the Love of God. I melted away somehow, fell headlong into the real “better off” place, in the arms of One who loved me beyond my comprehension. What is to explain? Those of us who have heard The Call and said amen to The Choice understand that ineffable place of newness, of a Love from before the foundations of the Earth moving into us to dwell. To have God in Spirit step within and heal the broken spirit -- oh, what inexpressible and humbling glory!
Such a great salvation, so wonderful a reality – it is easily understood why men and women down through the ages have stood firm against even the threat of death. So, there you have it. A new reality gripped me.
Next, comes The Walk. Now this is where it gets really tricky!
Once a person meets God in whatever way God decides, the next step is The Walk. For many, (those whose journey is in pro-Christian homes and countries), the first few weeks, months or years, can be a bliss ride. The Walk is an intimate celebration of newness, that re-born awareness of divine love and being so loved, covers the sometimes ugly harshness of reality. We float, glide and sail in the presence of the Beloved One – our Jesus, our God, and our living relationship in His Spirit. Sin may knock us down but we learn humility, confession, repentance and forgiveness. What a ride it can be!
Our first choice in The Walk is perhaps to buy a Bible, meet other believers, and seek regular fellowship. We want to understand what has happened to us. I certainly did. I sought out joyous believers, left the denomination and religious heritage of my parents for a “better off” church. I had no idea what real Church, the Body of Christ meant. I sensed an essence of truth in many things but the outworking of details from the Bible eluded me. So, I trusted those who appeared more learned, spiritually confident, elder brothers, and seminary graduates to teach and lead me. Though that seemed to make good sense at the time, it was my first error – following men instead of that “still small voice” of the Spirit.
I won’t go into the whole “hurt by the church” saga and disillusionment I suffered at the hands of a Bible-based, independent and fundamental denominational church as many of us have already been there or are still trying to get the courage to leave a similar fate. You all know the horror stories of how God’s people can hurt one another so deeply. We either choose to stop The Walk after such or to keep on keeping on.
When I left The Walk, I essentially played the “every man did what was right in his own eyes” gig. It was actually quite a blast at first, being free of the squash of legalism and enforced spirituality. I oddly felt guilty not having to be somewhere, attending, listening or doing church staff stuff. I experienced an unstable and dangerous boredom. Being without any churchianity, I had feeling of being clearly “outside” the Big Lie of Church. I tried other less demanding fellowshipping but soon felt the tentacles of even those groups wanting something of me instead of pure fellowship. As soon as people in churches saw faith and willingness, a “volunteer me” lighted sign started blinking somewhere near me. It was maddening, so I decided to completely divorce myself from what I saw as a dark vortex of religious tradition. Sadly, without fellowship or guidance, I drifted very far from my friendship with Jesus. I guess I was already far from Him, even so deep as before in churchianity. My struggle with devotion to prayer and Bible study was long ago weakened and being outside of the safety net, covering of believers – well, I ceased The Walk completely.
Three years pass.
God sent me my future wife. While dating her, she too hears The Call and makes The Choice, at a Jesus Rock concert of all places. So my dear loving God, goes seeking after me yet again, wooing me back to The Walk via seeing the love of my life meet my old friend, the Lord Jesus. Wow! God is an incredibly patient lover of us all.
And now, over 34 years after first meeting the Lord, I am still trying to be daily moving in His Presence as I continue The Walk. My life has seen great joy, suffered deepest loss in death, sickness, agonized over many betrayals of trust and walked in a depressive wilderness of soul some seven years. Yet, even now, after all that, I want to move out of merely walking The Walk and to go further. I want to truly know Him, to see the glory of the Lord, to more fully hear and understand The Call and The Choice. I want to find myself immersed in The Love.
I believe there is indeed a very real “better off” place, that is at last found, when we realize more than just obediently continuing The Walk. Somewhen, somehow, the Lord Jesus is revealed to us in His glory that forever changes us, grips us like that first salvation experience. Then we enter into an unforgettable place of The Love. We then are transformed on a level we never imagined. I don’t believe that we, in our own designs or strength can make this happen. There is that sovereign moment totally in the counsels and will of God when He decides to so reveal His glorious Love in a mighty way to his loved ones. Somewhere along a very individually unique path, The Journey, He comes to us, in His own time. I believe He desires us all to be in The Love and walk in that.
However, some refuse The Call and turn from The Choice. Then there are those that hear, believe, and yet refuse to continue and not return to The Walk. These ones thus see very, very little of His Glory revealed in The Love.
After so many years, I am beginning to see The Walk is indeed a struggle and not for the faint-hearted. When we see what The Walk cost Jesus when He was here walking this planet, it becomes clearer that God has called us into a real battle and a fierce race. There are real adversaries, seen and unseen that seek for us to fail.
As the Apostle Paul stated, “I die daily” and so must each one of us. The nearest enemy to ourselves is our own flesh, our very soul that is in itself a battleground. We tell ourselves to take it easy, lighten up, and do this or that later or not at all. The Spirit wants us to hear and cooperate but we resist. As Adam resisted the will of God, so do we all. At least, God understands this fight completely and His Son so walked the same hard road. He won the fight and the race. God knows our individual dilemma intimately and seeks minute by minute to come alongside and help. That same Spirit that was with Jesus in life, death and resurrection power, dwells in each of us. He is helping us in The Walk and leading us into The Love.
One last very, very important thing I have seen that has helped me, is this truth. Jesus’ Church, His functioning Body is not housed in any building. He dwells in no organization, denomination, scheme, or idea of men. Even if we turn from form and function, cast off tradition and names – His Church is a Mystery, an organism of Life we are still learning as He reveals Himself through each one of us and through His Word. No final truth is set in stone about what His Church is in its outworking among us. How we assemble, how we fellowship, how we worship, how we honor Him is a mysteriously wondrous event. Real Church Life defies the ad hoc boxes we find comfortable. It seems that as soon as we decide how it is to be, the accepted functioning -- concerning this vibrantly living creation called His Body – the Spirit causes a shift. It reminds me of the quicksilver love relationship. When we seek to hold The Love of God, motionless and still among us, to see ourselves lovingly reflected, we miss His Glory. It has always been about Him and not us. When we selflessly come to Him, The Love and His Glory is revealed and experienced individually and corporately. This is true worship in Spirit and truth. This is that “better off” place we were each created to be loved within.
May we each find His Glory and walk with Him anew in The Love.
E-mail me if you have comments or questions.