Why I’m Leaving Canada, Part 2
What’s that, you say? You say it’s bad form to publish the first of a two-part blog post and then go silent for three months?
Yep. You’re probably right. Sorry about that. Turns out life gets busy when you’re trying to move to a different country.
Anyways, I promise to dig into more of the meat of the reasons I’m leaving Canada in this blog post. I suppose if you just read my last post, you’d probably think leaving would be the last thing I would want to do.
So. Why am I paying a bunch of money to leave my hometown, my house, my friends and family, my job, and my church for 10 months?
There’s a few reasons, but I think to give context to the rest of this blog post, I should start off by directly stating the context by which all of the other reasons start to make sense:
I believe in this Jesus stuff. I actually believe there’s a real, honest-to-goodness God that created all of humanity. I believe in a real heaven and a real hell. And I believe that God puts people on earth for a reason. I think the only reason I’m still sucking air is that God hasn’t run out of use for me down here; otherwise He might as well just take me now.
I also believe that one’s life is most fulfilling when it is lived most aligned to God’s plan.
None of any of this makes sense without that. I would be rather insane to do what I’m doing without that belief.
Anyways, with that out of the way, let’s get into some specifics:
I’m leaving Canada to get equipped.
I don’t know what my life looks like after I’m done at Bethel. I’ve described it a few times now as an all-consuming black hole of mystery; you can throw whatever ideas you want at it, but you’re still no closer to actually knowing anything. Maybe I move to a different country and start working at a church full time. Or maybe I move right back to my hometown, resume work at my current job as a software developer, and continue helping around at my church in a similar capacity to what I do now.
But regardless of what my 9-5 job is, I believe that life after Bethel involves “more” in the realm of “Kingdom-building,” to use a Christian-eze expression which I would condense down to meaning simply more of Jesus and what He does in the lives of the people around me, from handing out purpose and meaning to leading people into healing and freedom; life to the full, you might say.
As involved as I may be right now in “building the Kingdom” through my local church, I believe God has way more for me to do; more discipling, more pouring into people, more seeing people healed and set free, more city-level transformation, more of simply seeing human beings encounter the eternity-altering love of Jesus. I don’t believe there’s a better use of one’s life than using it to help lead people who are far from God even just a few steps closer.
But all of that “more” also requires “more” from me.
More capacity to love and lead people. More of an attentive ear to what Jesus is saying in every moment of every day. More obedience, especially when it’s hard or uncomfortable. More skill in the gifts and talents God has already given me that I know I need to hone more. More understanding in theology and doctrine and more grounding in my Faith. More confidence in who God has created me to be, and more understanding of who that even is.
Like one would go to college before starting a career, I want to get trained and taught so I am ready (or at least, as ready as one can be) for whatever God has for me next. I want to have my tool belt well-stocked. I want to be prepared for anything.
That’s reason number one. Reason number two is this:
I’m moving to California for clarity.
Like I said, I don’t know what my life looks like after Bethel, or two years after that, or five years after that. And I’m not saying that I’ll absolutely come back from Redding with a crystal-clear game plan for the rest of my life, but I do think it’s sometimes very hard to hear God’s voice for the bigger picture type stuff when you’re down in the daily grind.
So one of my hopes for this adventure is that it gives space for Jesus to talk in ways that I may not be letting him in my current, comfortable environment. For Him to bring some measure of clarity into my future.
Psalm 119:105 was one of the first Bible verses I memorized as a kid growing up:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path
I like this verse because it assumes the reader realizes that the path is dark. No apologies for that; it’s just the nature of the path we walk. But God’s word illuminates it, and helps us understand where the next step is. That’s what I hope I’ll gain from my time at Bethel.
And I think sometimes you only get just enough light for one step at a time. I believe going to Bethel’s school is my next step, and I’m grateful for that measure of light. That’s the only step I can see right now, but I believe that as I take it, the light will shift a little farther down the path, and I’ll be able to see what comes next at the right time.
And who knows? I’m certainly not banking on it, but maybe my time at Bethel will allow God the space He needs to cast a full-on floodlight on His large-scale vision for the rest of my life.
I’m not sure what I’m going to be paid for during the next 30 years, but I know what I want to be known for, and it’s not developing software.
Ok, so that’s reason number two: space to hear God’s voice for what comes next. Let’s move on to number three:
I am going to Bethel’s school for discomfort. That might seem a bit strange so let me explain:
I own a house in Cornwall. I work at a job that is amazing (or at least I do for the next three days). I attend a church that I love, and serve in capacities that give me true joy alongside people that I genuinely love and respect.
And as great as all this is, I realize that if I’m not careful, I could settle in and do the exact same things for the next twenty years, and I believe that would come up short of what God has planned for me.
So I want to stay unsettled, and I think a very practical (if not drastic) way to do that is by completely blowing up my environment, so to speak, and seeing where the pieces fall.
Maybe it’ll lead to discovering brand new endeavours that end up becoming core components of who I am in the years ahead. Maybe it will make me even more confident in the things I was already involved in as they end up falling right back into my lap without me putting any effort into it. Maybe it will reveal limitations I was unwittingly living under because of the people and environment that surround me. Maybe it will lead to discovering that some responsibilities I thought I loved don’t give me as much life as I had believed when the expectation to fulfill them is removed.
I certainly don’t know what it looks like, but maybe it will be not playing drums on the worship team (though, full disclosure, I am absolutely auditioning for that). Maybe it’s trying something I’ve always been interested in but never had the time, space, or opportunity to pursue fully. Maybe it looks like discovering a love for something I’ve never imagined myself doing because someone who sees me in a way no one else has before encourages me towards it.
Sure, none of that will be particularly comfortable at the time, but I whole-heartedly believe the benefits of discovering more completely who God made me to be far outweigh any costs of temporary discomfort. The risk of staying comfortable is, for me, far too great.
Well. I guess that kinda sums it up.
I am leaving Canada to invest in my ability to build the Kingdom. I am leaving Canada as a next step, not exactly knowing what comes after it but trusting it will become clear at the right time. And I am leaving Canada as part of my continual efforts to avoid becoming settled.
And yes, in case you were wondering, I am outrageously excited for this upcoming Jesus adventure of epic proportions. 😊
I am excited to meet new friends who will sharpen me in new ways. I’m excited to interact with new leaders who, I hope, will challenge and push me in fresh and unexpected directions. I’m excited for the fresh slate that a new schedule and a new routine bring. I’m excited about learning more of the logic and rationale behind the Faith that I was born into; I certainly don’t want to ever be at risk of being a mindless Christian.
And, let’s be real, I’m super excited to pack up my Mini Cooper until it’s bursting at the seams and road trip across the continent.
I suppose the simple appeal of a new adventure is one more reason why I'm leaving Canada.
Why I'm Leaving Canada
Yes, my dear friends and family; in case the news has yet to reach you, I will be leaving my hometown of Cornwall as well as my home and native land of Canada this upcoming August, and moving to Redding, California for about 9 months to go to Bethel Church’s “School of Supernatural Ministry.”
Yep. I know it’s a little crazy.
So I figured I’d throw up a blog post explaining some of the thoughts and reasons behind this crazy adventure I’m embarking on. But first, I thought I’d start with some things that are not reasons I’m doing this. So, let’s get started:
I’m not leaving because I hate Cornwall.
I hear a lot of people talk badly about Cornwall. I recognize it’s not the Garden of Eden or the epicentre of all things bright and beautiful in the world (I’d argue Redding is probably pretty close to that 😉), but I actually really like Cornwall. Honestly. Maybe it’s because I was born here and am, by nature, a loyal person, but I also think that people tend to always think the grass is greener on the other side, rather than focusing on watering their side of the fence. Life after Bethel is very much a mysterious black box to me, but my current plan is to move right back to Cornwall and throw myself into whatever role I have of continuing to see the city transformed. I am not leaving because I hate Cornwall.
I’m not leaving because I hate Canada or have gotten tired of it’s winters.
I’m guessing most people reading this know this about me, but the fact that I will miss out a Canadian winter because of this move is 100% a sacrifice, not a perk. I absolutely love Canada, and everything it is. I love snowboarding down a long, meandering slope, or playing ice hockey with neighbour kids at the local rink. I love sipping on a hot cup of something delicious while watching the snow gently fall outside. I love that feeling you get when the snow first starts to fall and you know you can finally listen to Christmas music without feeling weird about it. I love bundling up and tromping around some snow-covered winter wonderland with a group of friends, and then following it up by piling inside, starting a fire in a wood stove, mixing up some hot chocolate, and sitting down to a long afternoon of board games. I am not leaving because I’ve grown tired of Canada or its winters.
I’m not moving because of relational issues.
To start with, let me state plainly that this past year has been the most challenging of my life. Period. Full stop. The primary reason for this is because of some really hard relational circumstances. I have never felt more hurt, frustrated, or downright confused when it comes to relationships than this past year.
But that’s still not the reason I’m leaving. There’s no one I’m running away from, no situation I’m trying to hide from. And it’s not because all of these issues have been totally resolved and wrapped up. They are definitely better than they have been, but not to the extent where I could confidently say that everything will be smooth sailing from here. I will admit that I tend to shy away from conflict, but I absolutely do not believe running from these things is going to solve anything. If anything, I would be more inclined to try to force some sort of resolution of these situations before I leave, but I also don’t think that’s the best approach.
All that to say, I am trusting God with these relationships. I don’t know what they are supposed to look like by the time I leave in August, and I don’t know what they’re supposed to look like when I come back, or three years after that. But I’m not running away from them. I am simply placing them in God’s hands, and trusting that He will take care of what it’s supposed to look like before, during, and after my time in Redding. I’m not moving because of relational issues.
I’m not leaving because I’m frustrated with my church.
No church is perfect. If you go to church, I guarantee it’s not perfect because, spoiler alert, you aren’t perfect. My church isn’t perfect either. There are things about it I wish were different or better, and even some non-core beliefs that I still have a hard time getting totally on board with.
But all of those things are small and pretty insignificant when compared to how much I absolutely love my church and what it’s doing. I believe in Harvest Christian Fellowship perhaps more than I ever have before. It actually feels a bit frustrating that I can’t responsibly get much more involved than I am, seeing as I will be leaving relatively soon. I love the people, and the direction we’re going.
On a related note, I’d like to believe I have always valued the opportunity to play drums as part of worship for the church, but having the context of leaving in a few months makes me treasure the opportunities I have to lead my friends in worship that much more. Smashing animal skins and metal disks as we build into a crescendoing chorus of worship and being able to look out a group of family and friends all connecting with Jesus, is something I hope I will never take for granted.
I plan on auditioning for the worship team for Bethel’s school, and I really hope I get in. It would be an incredible privilege and opportunity to help lead worship for hundreds of my fellow students in an atmosphere I am sure will be charged with excitement and passion. I think it's safe to say there will be more people in a larger auditorium that will be, on average, more engaged with the worship when compared to my home church. If I do end up getting to drum for worship during school, it would be incredibly exciting.
But it won't be the same. Nothing could possibly replace knowing the people you are helping to lead in worship. And I know the people in my church.
He used to be an atheist. They are still trying to figure out if they believe in this Jesus stuff. She lost her dad. They’ve known me and my family since before I could talk. They had a miscarriage. He’s been trying to find a job. They are holding their miracle baby. I teach him drums every week.
That might end up being the thing I miss the most when I'm gone. Again, drumming in larger contexts always brings with it a measure of extra excitement, but I know it won’t be able to replace looking at faces that I know the stories behind while I help lead them in worship. I’m not going to Bethel because I’m looking for a more grandiose worship drumming experience.
And, of course, my church is far from just a place I get to help lead worship at. It is moving. It's expanding. People in my hometown of Cornwall are encountering Jesus like never before in my church.
People who were staunch atheists a couple of years ago are helping greet people at the door. Broken and insecure people are finding community and real relationships in small groups. Lives are being changed and transformed. And I truly believe it's just the beginning.
Like I said, I think I may believe in my church more now than I ever have, which makes it that much harder to think about leaving. I am not leaving because I’m frustrated with my church.
I’m not going because I dislike my job.
Ok, so I don’t really like commuting from Cornwall to Ottawa every workday, but that is, by far, the worst part of my job. I enjoy the kind of work I do, I enjoy my coworkers, and the company certainly provides more benefits than I could reasonably expect at most other places. I’m aware of that. Nav Canada is a pretty awesome place to work.
They are even cool enough to give me a sabbatical for this crazy schooling in California, so I might just keep on working at Nav Canada when I’m done my year of schooling. Or I might find a different software development job in Cornwall. Or maybe God will call me to an entirely different type of job in Cornwall. Or maybe God will call me to somewhere else entirely. Like I said, I actually have no idea what comes after Bethel, but I’m not leaving because I’m try to escape my job.
And, no, I’m not going to find a wife.
Ok, so I want to get married. Duh. Most people do. And if you’ve been around the Christian world long enough you have probably heard some jokes about “Bible College” being more like “Bridal College.” It kinda makes sense, really. Logically speaking, most people attending a Bible school are going to be absolutely sold-out for Jesus, and almost certainly looking for a spouse with the same passion. I know I am. So it actually makes a lot of sense that people would find their eventual spouses in a Bible College-like setting.
All that to say, there is a better overall probability of me finding a wife hanging out at Bethel’s school for 9 months than staying in Cornwall. That’s just statistics for you, just straight math. And, obviously, it would be an amazing bonus if that was part of the result. It would be way worth the cost of tuition and living expenses and not working full time for 9 months if it ended with me meeting my eventual wife. But I (mostly) trust God’s timing with this area, and I know that God isn’t limited by any sort of setting. Maybe He will use Bethel’s school as a context for me meeting my wife, but He could also make it happen at my home church this weekend if He wanted.
So finding a wife isn’t the reason I’m going to California. Put another way, I would still be going if Bethel’s school separated the genders, such that there wasn’t any interaction between guys and girls and thus no chance of me finding a wife there. I am not going to Bethel’s school to find a wife.
So why am I going?
Well, that's a reasonable question, but it looks like I've already used up the acceptable word count for one of my blog posts, so I think I'll leave you hanging and make this a two-parter. I promise next time I'll give you the list of things that are reasons I'm going!
Before me stands a raging river. The steep cliff where my foot would fall if I took one more step confirms that the water here has run long, slowly cutting out chasm that now blocks my path.
The other side calls to me. Beyond the river are dreams, hopes, the future I know God has built into the timeline of my life, shaded and mysterious though it may be.
I’ve paced this side of the river for a long time. Long enough that it’s hard to truly know how much time has passed. Weeks? Months? Years? It all blends together.
Yes, I’ve been pacing and pondering for awhile now. Trying to figure out a way across the river, to the grand future I know awaits me.
I glance to my right. There’s the bridge, of course, but it’s not safe. In stark contrast to a bridge that might try to appear safe but sways uneasily when you decide to trust it; this one makes no attempt to disguise its weathered and broken boards. There are gaps between the footholds, each one with a story to tell that might very well all end with some poor, weary traveller’s last step.
No, this bridge is not safe. But it seems I am left with no other options. It appears to be the only path. The only way from where I am to where I know I’m supposed to be.
I take a couple steps back from the cliff’s edge and start walking again, slowly, meandering in the direction of the rickety old bridge. It’s ironic, really.
I’ve talked about this exact bridge before. I’ve made it a point to speak to new and younger Christians about its importance. I’ve written blogs about it before. I’ve literally preached about it’s necessity in a Christian’s life.
And yet here I stand, somehow hesitant to take that first step.
As I near the bridge my eyes are drawn up. There’s a simple, equally-battered sign attached to the start of the footbridge, crooked and barely still attached after all these years. It reads simply enough, only containing a single word:
I grimace as I slow to a stop in front of it, the word echoing around my head.
I think through the endless Christian-ize, the kind of stuff I’ve heard preached from a stage and echoed in my own conversations with people.
“Find a good Christian friend you can do life with.”
“Having a good mentor to speak into your life is essential.”
“The Christian life isn’t mean to be lived alone; get in a good community of Jesus-followers.”
I believe that stuff. I really do. So why does it feel like I’ve failed? Why does it feel like I actually have very few people, outside my family, who really, truly know me? Who know my hopes and dreams, my fears and failures, my craziest ideas of what God might want me to do?
I‘ve got my excuses. Perhaps guessing you can relate.
I’ve tried to share dreams and been met with skeptical questions and flat-out laughter.
I’ve assumed this kind of thing gets resolved once you get married.
It pains me to say it, but I’ve looked longingly at other communities that appear to have the depth I crave, compared their members to the people around me, and somehow deemed my own friends as not good enough. I’ve arrogantly thought of myself as being above those around me, and thus, naturally, not able to be encouraged and challenged by them.
And I’ve thought myself above the need for others as a collective idea. After all, truly being open and honest with a friend is what you do when you’re really messed up. Needing other people is for those that aren’t strong enough to make it on their own… Right?
But here, on the wrong side of where I feel called to, all of the excuses fall flat.
Sure, laughter hurts. It always does a little. But not everyone’s default stance is to be critical, and laughter can’t hurt as much as much as wasted potential.
If I’m honest, I’m still hoping that a marriage relationship helps a bit, but it seems a little silly to wait around for that.
And the thinking that one needs a certain caliber of people around them before it’s worth investing in their community? Let’s spend a bit of time debunking that one.
I think the easiest example to pull from is from the life of David. I’m guessing even those of you who don’t have a background in religion at least know a bit about this guy. Killed Goliath, ruled as king for 40 years, and conquered a ton of enemy territory in the process. Pretty famous guy, Biblically and historically speaking.
But before he was a king, he was hanging out in a cave. And people start gathering around him. Only these aren’t the high-rollers or the guys winning the strongmen competitions. 1 Samuel 22:2 starts off like this:
“All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him”
Cool. So we got the distressed, the indebted, and the discontented. The people who we literally running away from their problems. In other words: the losers.
But the verse goes on:
“… and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him”
So he’s got 400 of these losers. But I think it’s interesting that the Bible describes David as becoming their commander.
David was more than just some random guy wandering the wilderness who just happened to attract other aimless souls. He became their commander. That speaks of organization. That speaks of order. That speaks of an army.
David takes the losers around him, and turns them into an army. They are more than a little hesitant to actually act on their newfound identity (1 Samuel 23:3), but when they do, it’s an undeniable success (1 Samuel 23:5). The Bible records this number of vagrants growing over David’s time in the wilderness, and most Biblical historians would agree that the top-ranking men of this band of misfits ends up being known as David’s “Mighty Men” during his time as King.
David took a bunch of puny, scared weaklings who are running away from their problem and turns them into a growing army of mighty men that history still reveres.
Maybe it’s normal to compare your own friend group to other groups. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s an awfully disloyal thing to do. I know I truly do have some awesome friends, but even if they were a bunch of homeless, aimless, visionless and broken cast-aways, a leader like David would see their potential to become an army. I want to see the potential in those around me. I want to stop whining about the state of my community and start investing in changing it. And who knows? Maybe the truth is that I am one of those losers, wandering around looking for a leader who will believe in me. But I sure hope I’ve got enough David in me to stop putting all my hope in that.
The funny thing is, I think everyone wants this. I think everyone wants to be known, to have someone truly understand their innermost thoughts and desires, and to do the same for those around them. I think everyone wants a cheerleader, and to have someone else to cheer for. But someone has to take that first step and decide to invest in it, with nothing more than hope that those around them will jump in.
I place my right foot up onto the bridge, and slowly ease my weight onto it. As I expected, it gives a little as I increase the pressure, but holds fast when I lift up my left foot and commit.
I’m here, now, on the bridge. I breathe deeply and take another step, gingerly easing forward, bracing myself for a sudden snap beneath me. But I keep moving.
This isn’t safe. There aren’t guarantees.
Actually, scratch that: on second thought, there are a few things you can count on.
You’ll get hurt. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll misunderstand and be misunderstood. Sometimes, you’ll part ways with people you’ve invested blood, sweat, and tears in.
But, to address my final excuse, I now see that needing people is not, in fact an indication of failure or weakness. Needing others is not solely or even primarily the means for getting back on track after making a mess big enough you can’t clean it up on your own (though, speaking from personal experience, it is absolutely beautiful at that too). It’s not an optional path for those who prefer it.
Rather, I am coming to believe that needing others indicates a willingness to do whatever it takes to advance. To get to the next level. To be free and whole and ever more suitable for the mission that I believe God’s placed me on earth for.
Deciding to need others is an unavoidable, irreplaceable, integral part of the journey from where you are to where God’s called you. It’s the only way across. There’s no skipping in line, no jumping past this part, no shortcuts. You can either stay on this side of the river forever, or give in to trusting the rickety, unsteady bridge.
I’m starting to think the level of freedom and potential in one’s life might be directly related to their willingness to be honest with other people. To their commitment to knowing and being known by others.
Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I’ve decided I want — no, need — radical community. I want dangerous togetherness. I want to be uncomfortably known. I’m coming to believe it’s worth the risk.
I don’t really know what that looks like. I have no doubt I’ll fail, and I’ll probably pick up some scars along the way. Heck, I’ve already accomplished that and that was before I put a foot up on the bridge.
But I’ve decided I want to live inside an open, honest, safe, authentic, encouraging and challenging culture, and I want it badly enough that I’ll do what I can to be the start.
The bridge shifts as I take another step...
Where do you find God?
Do you find Him in the Bible? In your bedtime prayers?
Do you find Him in a cup of coffee, or a cup of tea? Maybe you find Him in a song, or a book. Maybe you see Him in a sunrise, or a waning moon.
Maybe you find Him under a layer of dirt, or under the crushing waves of the ocean. Maybe you find Him in the noise, or in the silence. In the crowd or in isolation.
Maybe you see Him best on the mountaintop, or maybe you find Him in the valleys. Maybe you’ve seen Him in the desert, or played with Him in the beauty of a waterfall.
Maybe you’ve seen Him in a storm, or in the beauty of utter stillness. In the beauty of falling snow, or in the dusty streets of a rural, impoverished village.
Have you found Him in a friend? How about in an enemy? You’ve probably seen Him in a leader, but how about in one of your followers?
The morning? The evening? The dead of night?
Do you find God in the much-needed relaxation of a vacation? Or maybe you’ve found Him in what feels like the mundane day-to-day.
In a healing, or in the process before?
Maybe you find God in the celebration of a prayer answered, or in the honest venting of frustration at answers delayed.
There’s a billion places you could find God. That’s one of the great things about Him. What to one person might be a casual, every-day happening might spark the greatest revelation about Jesus someone else has ever received.
In my opinion, one sign of maturing in Jesus is learning how to adapt how you find Him.
When I was in my teens, the most consistent place for me to find Jesus was by myself in worship. In my room listening to “Delirious?” albums, in my parent’s basement strumming on a guitar, or wandering in my moonlit backyard with a ukulele. I found God on many of those nights.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still think personal worship times with Jesus are absolutely irreplaceable. But that isn’t usually the way that I connect to Jesus on a deep level anymore.
These days, worshipping with a group of people, memorizing a Bible verse (who knew that could be so good? Seriously, try that instead of your daily chapter sometime), or sitting at Starbucks with a grande Cinnamon Almond Macchiato and journaling thoughts and streams that I myself don’t even understand are the main avenues that I find connect me with Jesus like nothing else.
I suppose my point is this:
Try something new.
Steep yourself a cup of tea and hide away in your room for an evening. Go for a walk out in the falling snow, maybe even without your phone. Take up gardening. Write down all the ways you’re frustrated with Him. Write down all the ways He’s come through for you in the last year. Write down all the things you’re believing Him for. Step into that thing you’ve always felt both pulled towards and terrified of. That might be the place He meets you.
Embrace the storm, and learn how to let the waves propel you instead of crush you. You might just find Jesus wandering around on those same waves.
Here in the Middle
So. Life. That happened.
If my records are correct, my last blog post was April 1st. That’s 183 days and 29520 seconds from the time of this writing, in case you were curious. (Turns out, I was)
There are a lot of things that have kept me from writing a blog post during that time.
My entire, now even further-spread out family got together during the summer, so you know I wasn’t about to sit down to write for two hours with 16 little nephews and nieces running around.
I was privileged to be in the weddings of two really great friends. That takes some time.
And of course, with summer always comes general business of trying to make the most of it, and usually that involves being outside more than being in.
But, if I’m honest, none of those are reasons are the big ones. There’s been a lot more that’s preventing me from blogging.
Without question, this past half year has been the hardest season of my life. Despite being distracted by just trying to keep my head above water some days, when I did find the time to sit down and try to write, it’s been really hard to figure out what and how to write about things. Turns out it’s really hard to gain perspective enough to write about a season that you feel like you’re just blindly stumbling through.
So that’s the first big reason I haven’t blogged recently. Like a maze of corn, it’s a lot easier to describe the way through it to people once you’re out on the other side, and, though I’m writing now, I still don’t think I’ve made it through yet.
One of the great things about God is that He never wastes a season. I have a long list of things that He has taught or is teaching me through this season, hard as it’s been. But even more than the conscious things I’ve learned, I absolutely believe that in the years to come I will discover things that God built into my life during this time, even if I wasn’t aware of them at the time.
As much as there are times that I’d like to yell at God for the brutality that has been these few months, I know that I am learning things that I likely couldn’t learn any other way. What’s more, this time of craziness is probably at least a little bit my fault anyways; I distinctly remember driving home from work sometime last year simply praying that God would make me more dependent on Him, and on another occasion asking that my Faith would “burn” more. I had just meant that I didn’t want my Faith to grow stagnant or become a comfortable, fake Faith, but I suppose this is one way of answering that prayer.
So that’s the second big reason I haven’t blogged recently: it’s simply hard to pick a topic. From bitterness to love, resentment and frustration, there are simply too many things that have happened in the last while to write about in a single blog post. I’ve been learning to focus on the excitement of an unknown future instead of the sadness that letting go of the past can bring. I have experienced a deep uncertainty in how to properly navigate some situations. I believe I have gained a greater humility and empathy. I have learned about trust. I have learned about relationships and expectations. I have learned about the gap between intent and impact.
So how do you choose from the list? I’m not sure. That seems to be a bit of a theme for me lately.
But I finally decided that writing about a small sliver of the nature of God that I feel I have learned about (or at least gained a greater appreciation for) is probably a safe bet. So let’s give that a go, shall we?
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
If you’re a Christian, and have been for more than a few months, you probably have heard this verse. If you’ve been a Christian for a year or two, you’ve almost certainly read it in your own devotions, and heard Christian songs written about it. If you’ve been a Christian most of your life, it’s likely you’ve memorized at least parts of this passage at some point in your life.
And, if you’re like me, you just start to gloss over some of this stuff.
“Right right, Jesus is super everywhere. Got it. Also, why would I ever intentionally go to hell? That seems weird.”
Yep. I think we all start to do that.
So let me try to share one thing I feel I’ve learned about God during the past half year:
He is committed.
Hardcore. Naively. Dangerously. Nonsensically. Surprisingly. Unfathomably.
In this season, there have been days of complete and utter uncertainty. In my self, in the choices I was making, in what I was feeling, in how I was responding… You name it.
And I don’t mean to be overly dramatic or especially mysterious by not sharing details, but I honestly wondered if I was just off the deep end. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe the emotions I was experiencing were completely out of whack. Maybe I was the problem. Maybe the choices I was making, even right then and there, were the wrong ones, leading me down the wrong paths, leading me to a fiery, crash-and-burn ruination of my life.
Ok. Maybe that is a little over-dramatic. But it is how I honestly felt in those moments.
I wondered if these would be the choices that others would look at in sad amazement, wondering how someone like me could have handled the circumstances so badly. I felt like there was about a 50% chance that the things I felt were normal, natural responses to the circumstances that most people would experience, and about a 50% chance that I just didn’t get it, didn’t understand, and couldn’t ever understand. That this was a hurdle others had jumped over flawlessly, without a second thought, and one that I wouldn’t ever be able to climb over.
Again, this might seem (and might be) somewhat over-dramatic, but I remember thinking that there could end up being a stigma attached to being associated with me, at least on a deep level. After all, you don’t really want to be known as the guy who was best friends with that one who went crazy and started making bad decision after bad decision. I remember thinking that a smart, safe choice for anyone close to me would be to step back a couple feet and watch at a bit of a distance until it was clear which side of the crazy I was on. I certainly didn’t know.
And then, I looked up.
And He was right there.
Just like He’d been the whole time, holding me tight against the oncoming waves, strengthening me in ways I hadn’t even recognized.
My Best Friend, the Faithful one, Jesus.
It actually felt wrong. This wasn’t a safe place for someone to be, close to me, least of all someone so perfectly pure as Jesus. I might be steering this ship down a waterfall for all I knew. A “smart” move for Jesus, a choice that would protect His reputation, would be to leave me until it my fate was more stable, until the train I was engineering was back on it’s rails.
In some ways, it surprised me that He was still there. It shouldn’t have, but it did.
See, what I learned about God is that I can’t get away from Him, even if I tried. It’s never been me hanging on to Him; He’s always been holding fast to me, and He doesn’t let go when the seas get choppy. In the places where it doesn’t make sense, where it’s surprising to find anyone willing to walk with you, He’s right there, happy to be involved in your process.
He is utterly and ridiculously committed.
Sure, He’ll be with you when you soar on the winds of heaven, but if you decide you wanna run your life to the ground and beyond, to the closest thing to hell you could get yourself to, He’s still within earshot. If you throw yourself into the seas, certain to be drowned, He’ll be swimming right along next to you.
And let me say this: even without God, I was never alone. I do have friends and family willing to walk through anything with me, and another thing I’ve learned in this process is that I’m bad at using that help. It’s something I’m working on it.
I also don’t think that I’m any real danger of irreversibly breaking my life anymore. That’s a comforting thought.
But even if I was in that kind of danger, even if my deepest friends and all my family decided I was simply too far gone, too broken, and too ruined to associate with, even if I was taking the ridiculously blessed live God had given me had and throwing it away in my hurting state…
Even then, I know God would be with me.
His proximity to me is in no way related to the quality of my choices.
He is just close. Always close. Always, always…