I was speaking last week at a spiritual retreat, and received the greatest compliment I’ve ever received while teaching, speaking or preaching. After my talk, another leader called me aside and told me that a young man in his group exclaimed afterward, “that dude just dropped a truth bomb on me.”
Words like that are encouraging for a postmodern, vintage hippie, Jesus freak like me. But it’s more than just that nice feeling that you’ve said something that’s reached someone.
It’s scarier than that.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been teaching, speaking and preaching more and more. And I’ve had this growing sense that there’s more to it than just an avocational interest. I’ve been struck by the notion that I really enjoy doing it. And it scares the crap out of me. Because I know what it means. I realize that every time Jesus calls us to come to him, it’s followed by a command to go. And DO.
And so hearing that I’d just dropped a truth bomb on a guy who is struggling to find his own path in ministry went beyond gratification. It was affirmation. Not of myself, but of that call to go and do that I’ve been trying to push against for far too long.
It’s funny when you’re the last person to recognize something in yourself that is crystal clear to people all around you. When I went to my pastor to tell him it was time for me to start a discernment process of this deeper call to ministry, his first comment was, “I knew this day would come!” And you know what? I KNEW he knew that day would come. The reaction from others was similar: my wife, my daughter and other friends have basically said, “it’s about time.”
Part of the talk I gave at that retreat last week was about an experience of “hearing” the voice of God in my own life several years ago. A pastor who was also working the retreat encouraged me to talk about how one discerns the truth of that…in other words, how you know it’s God’s voice and not your own. And the short answer is, affirmation.
It’s only when you test that calling in the context of community that God’s spirit works through the mysteries of interpersonal and social dynamics to confirm or dispel it. And so when you put it out there, when people react to it and respond to it, and the people closest to you tell you “it’s about time,” you know it’s true.
I’ve had this growing sense lately that I’m closest to God when I’m struggling. Not struggling with my faith or with the consequences of circumstance, but struggling with God. Wrestling over what scripture means, how to apply it, how to take following Jesus out of the realm of intellectual consent and into real, practical action. The story of how Jacob became Israel is not lost on me.
And so, as I prepare to take these next steps into where God is calling me, I do it with a limp.
I’ve been dislocated. And it’s painful. But it’s glorious.
The journey is just beginning. I don’t know where it’s heading yet. But along the way, I hope to engage many of you in this conversation. Not just for my own affirmation, but maybe also for yours. To find that frightening, glorious place of dislocation in your own life. That place where, as my new young friend says, you just get “wrecked” by the amazing love and grace of Jesus.
Let this be a story we tell together. Let this be how we become new creations in Christ.