So the past few years on my old blog I've done a final post of the year thing followed by some resolutions. Basically I've been a horrible failure with the resolution part, and as for the final thoughts of 2007? What a flippin' year.
To start, it has been an enormously amazing year of change. Each New Years eve for the last number of years I've asked God for a little word. Sometimes I get a picture or a verse. One year I got the verse John 13:4 and used it as a theme for that year. Two years ago I got the picture of a desert and wouldn't you know, that year sucked. Last December 31rst I got a picture of fire. I thought, "wow, this is either really cool in a charismatic way, or it's gonna be another tough one...". And it's been tough.
A few days after the New year I came across a blog run by a former pastor and Christian apologist who has become a militant athiest. For whatever reason God used this a springboard for the greatest spiritual overhaul I've ever experienced. I began to question God. Who was he, did He really exist? Have I just been indoctrinated my whole life. A product of a quasi-Christian culture no different from some passionate Muslim or Buddhist? Did I really just evolve from a protoplasm and a spider monkey? Could I really know him? Have I just had my head in the sand? Honestly, over the course of the year my faith in him has been literally stripped naked and bare to the point I thought it was gone.
Along with the deep faith trials and questions was the fact that I knew for awhile that my time in leadership and as a pastor at my church was coming to an end. I'd been at the church since November of 04 and had basically helped to pastor it from about 200 or so to 30ish. Not a fun process. So many of the ideals and convictions I would honestly die on the side of a mountain for seemed to bankrupt in many ways. Sure many of my convictions are biblical truths and timeless values, but somewhere along the way even the most noble of them combined with a wounded heart does not lead to the righteous life that God requires. I became a wreck. I felt and still kind of feel like everything I've touched turns to crap. My faith in God, my ecclesiology, my theology, my everything that has to do with thinking about church and God was on life support. I remember one night in particular my wife and I knew that something had become radically different and gone for me. Not a pretty picture.
So what happened? I quit my job at the church. I was blessed to get a new job that became available and saw me step into a great situation. I actually saw an increase in pay too! This job been such a huge blessing for me and my family. Unfortunately, as that happened I saw a huge shift in our social group of friends. Most everyone that I would call a peer and friend, that was part of our close homegroup has moved on. That has been the hardest part. It's been a very lonely time for me, making the trial of my faith questions that much harder and intense.
In the first part of October it all kind of came to a head. I think I was finally able to describe my feelings as "I think the fire has finally gone out, and I'm not sure I want it ever re-lit again." Harsh but really true. I was honestly at the point that I was ready to live the rest of my life as an agnostic/"I couldn't really care-less" theist. Then as the story goes, and you probably see it coming, God met me. Naomi, my dear and valiant wife drug me along to a worship event where a speaker spoke the message that I needed to hear. Then an old friend spotted me, came over and started to pray for me. And I cried and sobbed and cried some more. I was so sad that I'd let my heart grow so hard and wounded. That I had pushed God so far away in my brokenness. Not at all realizing that it was part of his plan I suppose. Honestly I really can't describe what's happened over the last few years with the desert and the fire. I don't know much and can't describe anything that well. Only this, somehow in wanting to please God and strive for holiness and truth, God has brought me through all this to know only his grace.
That last part sounds so generic. I know. But it's the truth. Things that once interested me: theology, doctrine, orthopraxy, eccesiology, systematic theology, how the church functions, how to grow as a church, church health, missional ideas, evangelism... on and on suddenly don't at all. All I'm really interested in is grace. I know I need to be careful here that I don't covey some cheap grace/every thing is permissible kind of idea, but a real understanding that nothing I can do benefits God in any way. Jesus came to serve and not be served. How can we? How can we impress him with any form of service?? Not in the least. It is only by his act of obedience, mercy and grace; his strength not mine that we have any sort of reconciliation with the Creator. Grace and nothing more.
So I'm totally losing everyone I bet. That's ok. This post is therapeutic for me to write. It's my truth as best as I can describe. Somehow on that night when God broke through a whole lot of shame and lies had to go. I haven't all the sudden become John Calvin with my bible study skills or Dr. Dobson in how I deal with my kid, but I'm finally a little more OK with who I am. In striving for holiness and all that, I wasn't really being me... I don't know how to reconcile that with doctrine or scripture just yet, (Give me some more time) but it's true. Only in accepting my depravity have I been able to understand grace. (Don't anybody else take this as a license to be shady!!)
All in all and in conclusion, 2007 is the year we bought our first home. I saw my son turn 5 and enter kindergarten. I made a radical career change. I've lost 42 pounds as of the end of the year. I'm only somewhat involved at church (still going to the same one. I skipped yesterday and went to the gym.) I'm ready for new friendships and more change if God has that for me. I think I'm ready to even reconcile with some of the destroyed relationships if it comes my way. I hope I would be able to at least.... So I don't know. I'm debating whether or not to ask God for a word for this year. It's kind of intimidating. I can't imagine it being any worse than that last few years. But I am a sinner living in a fallen world of sin going through the process of redemption. That is never going to be easy or comfortable. I'm sure that I will always be needing to be taught the same lesson many different ways, Grace. And I'll need it to be taught it!
I should finish this now... Grace to you friends, far and near, in 2008.