Twenty years ago, I had just finished a church softball game in which nothing went right. My team lost, I couldn’t hit, and I had pulled my hamstring in about three places. I have very little tolerance for my own failings and mishaps. Plus, as a former college athlete and son of a coach, performance on the field was an important part of my identity. I should have been peeved, grumpy, and mad at the world. I know it sounds silly to get so bent out of shape over an injury but displays of anger have always been my reaction to failure and frustration. But not this time. No, my reaction was completely different. The entire drive home was spent repeating the phrase, “Thank you, Lord; Thank you, Lord”.
This was a defining moment in my life. I was 25-years old, married with a new born, and in a job that required long hours and relentless timelines. A few weeks before the game mentioned above, I had a breakdown or a breakthrough as it would turn out. I was suffering from stomach ulcers and depression. Someone once termed depression as “the purple funk” and that was what I felt was surrounding me. Just a heavy layer of sadness and ennui. Through a unique set of circumstances, God broke through my stress and depression, and found me uniquely available to receive his gifts of mercy and grace.
Out of this overflowing cup came the contentment and trust that allowed me to reach out to God in thanks even after being humiliated and crippled by injury. Christ had so encaptured my heart, mind, and soul with his love, his friendship, his gentleness, his healing and direction. This moment marked the highpoint of my return to God, the mountain top of a spiritual experience that has not been duplicated. No, there has been no return to the mountain top. Since then there has been many situations where I was more likely to curse rather than praise, more willing to blame God than submit to him.
Coming down from the spiritual mountain top was necessary and the only way to truly grow into this new life that Christ had given to me but it wasn’t easy. I had to find a way to grow spiritually on flat ground and not just on the highest peaks. I had to overcome my tendency towards spiritual frustration and defeatism. I had to learn that more knowledge and collecting spiritual paraphrenalia did not equal true growth. I had to learn how the Holy Spirit works in our spiritual lives. I had to learn that there are no merit badges in the spiritual life only an increased sense of God’s love and his will being done. I had to learn that more spiritual activity did not equal more Christlikeness and that little efforts done with a well conditioned heart could bring great spiritual benefits.
My growth and achievement in spiritual things has improved over the last ten years and I have learned some things along the way that I think can benefit others who are like me – ordinary, well meaning, but incredibly lacking. I would like to share what I have learned in my spiritual journey to inspire others who have ever felt spiritually frustrated, or have ever felt guilty about their lack of growth, or powerless against their own weakness and stubborn will. God has provided an abundance of tools and resources to help us grow in Christ and I would like to help others, just like me, tap into these resources and see Christ work in their lives in ways they only dreamed of.
I feel I can help not because I am an expert but because I have tried and failed and Christ has been generous in showing me his ways despite my weaknesses. Here is a sample of some of the spiritual insights that I hope to help fellow Christians make a reality in their lives:
Reading scripture in a way that makes sense and feeds spiritual growth
Fasting without pride
Keeping the Sabbath AND making it Holy
Praying where you are
Removing clutter and distractions to let God speak
The good news is that I am still learning and as Karl Barth said, Christian living can ever “be anything but the work of beginners.” Join me as we share in our beginner stories and journey with Christ in this life.
Scott Jeffries – Grand Prairie, Tx