So what now?...
What indeed. Have you ever read Pilgrim's Progress? or Hinds' Feet on High Places? Did you notice that each of the main characters, while on their journey, seemed to be feeling their way along? There were helpers that came and went along the way, there were short-term instructions, there were times that they *knew* they were on the path but couldn't really honestly say they could even see which way they were going and certainly couldn't make sense of WHY their path led this way. (when Pilgrim endured the valley and when the called-out one had Sorrow and Pain for travelling companions) Yet, in neither case, did they ever see the whole way that lay ahead of them. Yeah, it's been a lot like that.
And I've come away with a new perspective on the "Thy Word is a lamp unto my *feet*..." verse. Have you ever noticed what a tiny piece of real estate your feet actually occupy?? I know that the rest of the verse goes on to say " a light unto my path" as well, but the two are together and I wonder if my experience is common: the part of the path that is lit is enough to see the next step. No more, no less. In a way, I've become very thankful for this. I used to see it as a frustration; not knowing the whole game plan has always been a struggle for me. More and more, I see it as God's provision for my safety. He knows I'd try to tamper with the plan; try to come up with a better one. Plus, I *have* to learn to trust Him this way. I either stand still, stamp my little lit up feet (laughing as mental pictures of Tinkerbelle dance in my head...) and demand to see what I want to see, what I understand, until I have all my darkness dispelled, or...I choose to walk in the light that He provides, trusting His goodness and His plan although I have no idea what it is, and actually make some progress towards somewhere.
All that in a long-winded attempt to say: what was next was - and continues to be - a long stretch of trial-and-error, pain, hard climbing, straining to see and hear His voice, a good bit of stamping my feet and throwing a fit, and learning to sacrifice on the altar those things that needed to be left aside in order for me to move forward in what little light I had. And, believe me, when everything you've been doing is called into question, there's a precious small circle of light in which you have confidence.
I was at one of those "square one" points. I knew I couldn't continue to drown under these layers of masks. Those had to come off. (what in the world lay underneath? by this point, even I didn't know...) My marriage needed some serious attention. We were both so lonely and wounded and used to handling certain areas of our lives without each other's help. My kids needed to know that they were loved no matter what Mom and Dad were dealing with. And my relationship with my Savior was, well, strained to say the least. What did I believe? *Did* I believe?
(*gasp* yes, the minister's wife said that. In fact, there was a point at which she stood in the hallway, at the end of her rope, after days of emotional grappling, financial hits, kids disobeying, no sleep for days, and the last straw of a child waking up in the night throwing up *all night* due to the distress caused by how he'd been treated at a new church when she was trying so hard to try again at this trusting-church-people thing and *screamed* at God what a sadistic, cruel, sick sense of humor He had. Praise Him, He's big enough to handle that. And He knew that she didn't really believe that about Him, but *she* needed to hear it before she realized that she didn't really believe it. See...it's all about relationship; do you sometimes need to say things out loud to your spouse before you can dismiss them? And in those times, do you find that the intimacy is sweeter in every area precisely because you could be that gut-level, raw-and-out-there honest with them? Yeah, the Biblical picture of our relationship with Christ is as his *bride*. Just a point that's hit home a lot lately.)
God is so good. He knew that none of this work could be done while I was still trying to keep my mask in place for *anyone*. So, he moved us out of any semblance of a titled ministry position. That had also been a point of growth for Dan and I. We realized, long before we got totally honest about other things, that we could not be the people God had called us to be, do the type of ministry to which we were called (which entails being where hurting people actually are, not demanding that they come to us), as long as we also lived under the responsibilities, expectations, and, yes, power structure and organizational model that comes from holding a church staff position. He led us out of that through a series of steps. Again, just enough light at a time for a baby step in the direction He wanted us to go. First, it was out of a full-time staff position into a non-profit, unpaid youth evangelist position that required a side-job at Disney to pay the bills. Then, it was the non-profit plus a part-time staff position (which, we later learned, was as much to ease that pastor's decision to retire as much as it was provision for our growth - we needed to know *for sure* that we needed to stay off staff; isn't God amazing?!). Next, it was a move to Dan's folks' house (no more funds for rent on this kind of sporadic income...), another job search that wound up back at Disney (*one day* before Dan lost his eligibility to be re-hired without going through all the training again...how God is that?? Oh, and his rehire date was April Fool's Day - read into that what you will; it give us a laugh now, though) and in a job where Dan didn't have to be gone late hours and had guaranteed days off. Can you say step one in learning to put our very own family back on the priority list of mission fields?
During this time,we realized that between sharing a house with in-laws and commuting several hours a day, this was *not* good for our family. Since the good of our own little mission field was now an important focus, that led to the step of seeking living arrangements that would be close to Disney and still fit our seriously slim budget. God gave us an opportunity to house-sit for my parents for a month, giving us the privacy to research some options and come to some decisions without *ahem* "input." We quickly found that neither purchasing nor renting a house were possibilities, apartments required too high a security deposit and were rare in a size that would accomodate us...then, we drove by an RV lot one day. You know it's God when *both* of you get excited about the possibility of cramming a family of 6 into an RV. We found one that fit our bedding requirements *and* fell into a price range that was below what we knew we would receive on our income tax return. We were able to pay cash for our "new home" as well as the lot rent for 6 months. The experiment began...we moved to Kissimmee in our 1982 Holiday Rambler Imperial, 33ft, Class A, dream-home-on-wheels. *grin*
Then, it was a series of trying-to-find-a-church-family-where-we-can-be-part-of-the-body-without-being-pressured-to-run-the-programs...not sure that place exists. It's an area we're still grappling with. We now vehemently disagree that the way we live our faith is by maintaining programs that take place in a given locale ; by being, if you will, "Professional Christians". Jesus, His disciples, and the early believers were fishermen, doctors, tax collectors, carpenters, tent makers... and they continued to be so even as they were "meeting from house to house" and "continuing daily together in the apostles' teaching and prayer" and "preaching the Word." They were out there, using their talents to provide financial support for their families - and their ministries - and ministering with their spiritual giftings "as they were going." I strongly suspect that a fisherman held a sphere of influence in which a doctor would be ineffective, and vice versa. God placed them vocationally in places where they would constantly have opportunity to be salt and light in dark and unsavory places. Sadly, in our experience, vocational church staffers have little opportunity to be salt and light to anyone who is "unreligious" because they're spending all their time in church offices, planning meetings, and church social events. We're hard put to find that the giftings of the spirit (pastor, teacher, etc) were ever meant to be used as vocational titles but rather as *functional* operations as the believers were meeting in one another's homes and working together in the community at large around them. Many of our definitions about "the church" and who we are to be as "followers of Christ" have undergone some modifications - sometimes radical - as we search the Scripture and compare it with how those things are played out in America's religious community. As we begin taking our relationship with our Jesus as our own rather than allowing it be dictated to us by those we deemed "more knowledgeable" than ourselves. Phooey. He said He indwells us; He said that His job was to teach us HIMSELF; He said that if we would seek Him, we'd find Him...that doesn't sound like He only reveals Himself to certain "specially gifted" followers of Him.
So, when we were ( or rather, when HE was) ready to tackle some of the more personal growth points, we were already established in a "secular" job (really don't believe in that label anymore, either; as a living, breathing, walking, talking dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, *any* job is an extension of my spiritual life, but you understand my meaning), living in a place of our own, had stopped attempting to define our walk with Christ by church attendance/leadership and had begun to seek the Lord for ourselves rather than for where He would lead a church program through us.
That's when things got tough...
It is about time for an update!
4 years ago