Friday, February 19, 2016

Beyond understanding

Today we move into "phase four" of Jen Hatmaker's convicting little book 'Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity.' I think I will split this into two separate posts. While they are related, there is a LOT of good stuff in this chapter. The first part is perhaps the best section of the book yet - at least as far as my own personal experience. It may be one of the most relatable things I've read in years.

This section describes the Hatmaker journey when they decided to leave their old ministry post (pastoring in a large church in Austin). They discussed joining with the Free Methodists and some other groups, but before all that... was this section that I'm just going to quote in its entirety:
We entertained every ministry option: planting a church, pastoring an existing church, serving as pastor of missions at another church in town, joining the nonprofit sector, becoming hippie radicals. Our single desire was to find the context where we could become the barefooted church of our dreams, and no option was off-limits.

Although God's silence was maddening, I see the important role it played. There is the obvious reason: a faith exercise. God has a history of behaving this way when calling people to a holy task. To Abraham: Go to a place I will show you. I mean I'll show you LATER after you leave. To Moses: Go to Pharaoh and liberate My people. Oh? Just tell him "I Am" sent you. To Isaiah: Go stripped and barefooted for three years. Just do it; it will mean something later.

I wonder how their stories would have gone had they possessed clear directives at their launch. If they had understood the final picture at the beginning, then every detour, every setback, every unexpected turn could have derailed their mission. Had Abraham known that Canaan was, well, occupied, it might have affected his resolve to get there. Or if Moses had known that forty years of homelessness would commence after their liberation, he might have been softer with Pharaoh. If Isaiah had realized he'd never see Israel's restoration, his prophecies could have lost their thunder...

...Perhaps this applies to you, too, good reader. God may be leading you away without a clear final destination yet. As maddening as that is, could it be that He needs you to release 'what was' before you can appropriately grasp 'what will be?' Could it be that you might accidentally squash the lovely vision if you obtain it too soon? There is a horrid beauty in following God slightly blind. The victory later is sweeter, the prize more valuable than breath. Obviously, we are Americans; we like a plan, we like assurances. But the ways of faith exist so far outside of our tidy boundaries, it is a wonder we can ever receive its mysteries at all...

...We can wreck the spirit of a mission by prematurely focusing on the strategy. When the 'how' eclipses the 'why' too soon, we create a positional shift to defend and execute rather than listen and receive.

When I first read that section of the book it was like, "Wow. Yes. Someone has finally made sense of what I've been going through for the past umpteen years." That's good stuff. I agree wholeheartedly. I was a little disappointed to read later in the book how they had to 'struggle' for two whole weeks of not knowing (Really? Two weeks is a struggle?). Um... I'm trying to not let that detract from the power of these words though.

Anyway, while there is much more that probably fits into this section, I'm going to put it off for another post. I'd like this one to stand alone for my own personal reasons. Also because it blended well with part of the text from the Sunday teaching we heard at church. I highlighted Acts 20:24 in my phone on Sunday, as it was especially meaningful:
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -- the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."

I think I've lately gained some clarity that everything that happened over the last few years wasn't necessarily so bad. In fact, as painful as it was for myself and the family, it may have not only been a necessity, but the BEST thing that could have happened. I don't necessarily know WHY I think that yet, but I had a really great sense of peace about it this past weekend. I feel good with where I/we are at. Not comfortable, but good. I have absolutely no idea what we're supposed to be doing or where God may be leading us, but... I don't believe the last couple years have been wasted.

I dunno... it's hard to explain. And, oddly enough, Jen used this quote from James Dobson of all people, that makes a great deal of sense right now:
[Rather than "why" questions...] "A better question becomes 'Why does it matter?' It is not your responsibility to explain what God is doing with your life. He has not provided enough information to figure it out. Instead, you are asked to turn loose and let God be God. Therein lies the secret to the 'peace that transcends understanding.'"

Yeah... that's good stuff. This was a good section of the book. I'm feeling strangely lost and fine at the same time. It's kind of beyond my understanding. ;) As Jen says on p. 142, "There is a freedom in not being in control, when something utterly imagined by God is coming for you." Yep.