During Gathering 1 of the Apprentice Experience, Keith Matthews listed out nine obstacles to Spiritual Growth (Growing Up). When he was done, he asked each of us to rank our top two obstacles. My top obstacle was the last one on his list – Lacking the confidence that God will really speak to me.
As I did this exercise, I was thinking of four somewhat recent failures, mostly of the spiritual kind. The guilt and shame associated with these situations have recently affected my ability to grow and minister to others because I am fearful that I will be inadequate and lacking.
These four instances can be divided into two groups – ministry to individuals and decision making. The decision making situation involved several others and our decision would affect a large number of people. During this time, I tried to practice spiritual discernment and not lean on my own understanding or some kind of worldly management strategies. I wanted God to speak through me and guide our decisions. The outcome to all of this was largely disappointing and I felt it had lasting negative effects. I felt responsible.
This has led me to question my ability to hear God and to trust what God is doing in my life. I felt a little like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football with all of the sincere determination and intent only to have Lucy pull up the ball at the last minute over and over again. Was I just destined to be well-intentioned but largely lacking in my ability to do any good?
But then I went to Kansas. Here, through exercises like the one above, and other conversations and teachings, I let it all go. I let go of my sense of failure, guilt, and need to be successful in only a limited set of parameters.
Before we arrived, we were asked to bring something to Kansas that we can place in the middle of the room during our classroom time that symbolizes why we were there and our desire to Grow Up. I brought a letter that represented one of these instances of “failure.” In my rush to prepare to leave for the week, I left it there. But, I am glad I did. You see, I needed to leave my guilt and shame and start fresh.
We learned two important truths that week in Kansas. 1) I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights and 2)I live in the strong and unshakeable Kingdom of God.
I brought my failure and shame to Kansas, but left with the reassurance of God’s work in the my life and God’s provision and blessings. This was a good and beautiful thing.
photo credit: Michael W. May, some rights reserved
Oid..loved the write up..can you afford to give some deetes
Good stuff. I have had a similar experience of setback and questioning this year as well. I think God allows these feelings of failure for several reasons, some of which are: to keep us humble, to keep us really tuned in to what he is saying, and to recognize our need for community since God’s people can help guide and hold each other accountable. Even though there is positive that comes out of these setbacks, I don’t believe God wants us to stay down or feeling like we can’t be of use in his kingdom. I think he wants us to learn from those experiences and continue to move forward as we grow to trust him more, just like you are doing. Thanks for the candor in your posts.
Thanks Jocelyn. These moments force us to be honest with ourselves and with God. That seems to be the right kind of soil for growth.
Scott! I am enjoying your snippets of honesty and clear desire to love God in al you do! I love that God calls us to be active with him in our formation – active and yet so much leaning into Him in all we do each day in our everyday wonderfully ordinary lives.
Thanks for reading Julie. I don’t know if I love that God calls us to be active with him. I would much rather he just change me on the spot. But in God’s economy, that wouldn’t be an exchange that would be truly transformative, it would just be different. God wants us to be transformed not just different. So the process continues.