Four and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “You are here” as part of a synchroblog. The topics related to this synchroblog caused me to think about where I was in my life at that time and what God was doing in my life – as far as I could tell. Looking back, I was right about some things, and wrong about other things. Now, 4 1/2 years later, I’m not where I thought I would be, but I’m grateful to God for bringing me here. I looking forward to what he has in store for me in the next 4 1/2 years. I bet it’s not what I’m expecting.
This post is part of a synchroblog organized by Glenn from “re-dreaming the dream” (see his post called “Your Turn: May Synchroblog“). In this synchroblog, participants are supposed to tell “a little about the latest chapter of your story”. Specifically, he suggests thinking about the following questions:
- How are you doing?
- What are you doing?
- What are you learning?
- What are you dreaming about?
When I started to think about the “latest chapter in my story”, I thought about one of those maps which have an arrow point to your current location along with the words, “You are here”. Of course, when I look at one of those maps, “Here” is rarely where I want to be. I always want to be “There”, wherever “There” may be. But, the map is still useful, especially in determining how to get from “Here” to “There”.
But, where is “Here” for me? Where is “There”? And, how do I get “There” from “Here”? These are very important questions, and I hope to answer a few of them in this post and in some future posts.
I could focus on many different aspects of my spiritual journey of understanding God, trusting God, relating to people, and understanding the world. Since I write primarily about the church, I think I will focus on one aspect of my understanding of the church that has changed and how that change has affected my life.
When I came to Southeastern to begin seminary just over five years ago, I was very happy with the institutional church system. I had grown up in that system; I had learned how to operate within that system; I had been a lay leader in the system; and I planned to be a professional leader within the institutional church system. There are many good things that happen in and through institutional churches, and this post is not meant as a rant against church systems.
However, as I made my way through seminary, and as I studied the church from the perspective of Scripture, I learned something very interesting: Scripture does not focus on church as a system, but on church as a people. Slowly, my thinking, my studies, and my actions have shifted away from support and defense of an institutional system and toward the strengthening of God’s people – the church.
This change has affected every aspect of my understanding of the church – the clergy/laity distinction, education, discipleship, meetings, discipline, teaching, fellowship, and on and on. While structures and organizations can work to help people relate to one another, they always must be checked and re-checked to make sure they are not hindering God’s people from obeying him and serving one another.
That’s where God has me now… at the moment… that is my, “You are here”. But, where is “There”? Where is God leading me? As I continue to study and as I continue to attempt to follow God in every aspect of my life, I realize that my understanding of how God loves and cares about people is very shallow… very limited. Because of that, my love and concern and service towards people is shallow and limited.
In the last several months I’ve written about social justice, caring for the least, etc. The gospel – the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his completed work in healing the rift between us and God and other people caused by sin – calls us to both worship God and care for people. As our hearts are turned toward God, our hearts are also turned toward people.
My heart is turning, but its not there yet. I’m still very selfish and self-centered, though I see a direction in my life – a direction that I think God is moving me, because it parallels what we see about God in Scripture. Where and when I do find myself caring about other people, the scope of my concern is still limited primarily to those that I know personally. God cares for all people, especially those who are hurting, oppressed, needy, hungry, fatherless, widowed, and living in a foreign land. My heart is not there yet. But, again, I can sense that God is moving me in that direction.
Honestly, I don’t know exactly what “There” is going to look like. I don’t know exactly what God is going to use to move me from “Here” to “There”. But… I’m willing… honestly, my willingness is shaded with hesitancy because I realize that I will have to give up many things that are special to me – much like the institutional church was special to me. I’m willing… and I trust God to do this… but again, my trust is shaded with doubt – doubt that I will be obedient. All I can do is cry out with the father of the demon-possessed boy – “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief”.
I am “Here”… God wants me “There”… Lord, you will have to help me get from “Here” to “There”.