Faith…my response to God’s presence in my life.
Journey…a process or pursuit.
This morning in Sunday School (actually it is called “Discovery Class” individuals considering membership at our church go through this class) we discussed a book titled The Critical Journey by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich (Second Edition, Sheffield Publishing 2005). In the book, the authors examine the journey we embark upon when we respond to the presence of God in our lives. I have not read this book and this post is really just my thinking out loud…a lot of thought generated by a discussion and diagram.
The spiritual journey, as described by Hagberg and Guelich is based on the stage-model theory, of which I will direct you to this page for more on that topic and a more thorough discussion of the book by someone who has actually read the entire text.
Through the magic of computers, I was able to sort of reproduce the diagram from our handout.
All credit to the authors for the original and this reproduction.
The Wall…as shown in this diagram should really be a dark line only, but the idea remains. Most of us cycle from stage 2 to 3…learning and serving and learning and serving and…well you get the point. But, to grow, to journey deeper with God, we have to get past The Wall. And the only way out…is through.And that is what got me to really thinking today… for some time now I’ve been hanging out at the Wall. The Wall is kind of comfortable, you don’t go too deep, don’t feel too much pain, you coast. I’ve been through the wall before, yes, but only long enough to journey inward and outward and back to learning and serving and learning and serving. In some ways, it has been an easy place to stay because going through the wall is not without pain. But remaining at the Wall is painful, too, because metaphorically you just “bang your head on it” but only hard enough to bruise yourself, not hard enough to actually break through…and that, my friend is misery.
My journey over the last two years (at least) has been a journey through the Wall. I mean I had been hanging out, like I said before, but I got bored, frustrated and miserable. I had been getting frustrated with the learning and serving routine, I did not believe the pinnacle of spiritual maturity rested in my “Christian Activity Resume.” I began to doubt and question what I believed; why I believed what I believed, wondered what was it that was truly essential in my relationship with Christ and what was clutter I picked up along the way. Was I a Christian or a Christ-follower…is there a difference? My quiet times seemed to be another activity to complete, rather than a time to connect with my Lord. I had been unsettled and restless. I yearned for something deeper, but was too fearful/lazy/comfortable/uncomfortable/proud to go through the Wall. It took a crisis to push me through…and then another one…and then another one.
I might not have known I was “at the Wall” but I did know I was not really growing or going deeper with God…and I wanted to, but knew it would take something more than just “wanting” it for true spiritual growth to happen. So I prayed. I asked God to do whatever it takes to draw me closer to Him…whatever it takes so that I would grow and trust Him more…whatever it looks like and whatever it takes…I yearned to be in a new place with Him.
That is a hard prayer to pray, but trusting Him is harder. I knew He would answer that prayer, I had no idea what the answer(s) would look like…I just had to trust Him.
So what happened?
On this journey inward there has been pain, loss, joy, peace, grace, sadness, fear, gratitude…you know, the messy stuff of life we all deal with. As I expected. But in this whole mess, I have experienced a deepness with the Lord I could have only experienced by journeying through the Wall. This place, which I think is stage 4, is hard to describe, it is a place where “heart work” is done…where spirituality and psychology collide. It is a place where Truth is revealed about who I am and who God is. This place is a place of trust…of prayers sent up fervently and with hope, a place where I cannot go forward on my own strength, but one in which I have to believe His promises.
I know He loves me.
I know He is sovereign.
I know He is my Redeemer.
I know He hears me when I call upon Him.
Looking at the diagram, stages 5 & 6 loom ahead…I am not there, I am pretty sure. There is a lot more decluttering of unresolved issues between me & God, between me & me, between me & my husband…I’ll be hanging out here for a while, I am pretty sure.
And that is okay… He promises me this…
“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”