Coming to Terms with my "F" Words
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
When writing, I often struggle to translate my thoughts into something cohesive enough for others to easily understand what I'm trying to say.
Case in point, the first time I wrote this post several days ago, I was thinking about how I felt in a time of waiting for God to give me some guidance. It was full of "F' words: Flummoxed, Frantic, Floundering. It was fun to write and reflect on, but I could never get it to resolve into what was really stirring in my head and heart.
Then over the past weekend, I was in a small group where I explored my tendency toward trying to control things, like my experience with God. The next day in our pastor's message at church, the topic of control came up again and something started to stir.
I felt like maybe this was the context I needed for all the things I was thinking and feeling, but that version didn't end well either. A third attempt tried to salvage the best of the first two drafts, and was Fabulously successful at being only minimally better.
So now here I sit, alone with the one thing that has survived this post's rough beginnings: a fine "F" word that might as well be the whole post.
Where does a person go with just one word? I decided to go the back to the beginning of my journey.
The day I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour is one I'll never forget. I was only 7 years old, but my heart was Full to overflowing with the knowledge God was real, God loved me, and Jesus died for me! I was (mostly) Fearless as a whole church full of people watched me make my way up to the front.
Since that day, I know I've had my ups and downs with God. I've gone through seasons of not-really-unbelief-but-complacency, of sitting back and being unquestioningly satisfied that all is well between me and God. I've experienced long periods of coasting before something would nudge me back into realizing that maybe I needed to be participating in the relationship more.
Other seasons have been marked by periods of spiritual upheaval. These tend to come when I've been actively working on my relationship with God rather than just Floating along. Whether I am trying to identify my purpose, trying to prepare myself for something, or begging God for some definitive word or sign, these are almost always times of feeling Frantic.
In considering these two extremes (along with everything in between) it's hard to know which has resulted in more Frustration: the wondering what I might have missed when I was content to sit back and put my relationship with God on auto-pilot, or the being so desirous of serving God that I put the cart before the horse, event-planning my life and getting overcome by worry and doubt.
In the midst of the midst trying to make sense of all this, Richard J. Foster's book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth was recommended to me. Within the first few pages, I was comforted to find something Familiar - something akin to my two long-standing ways of relating to God. Foster refers to them as "human strivings for righteousness" and "the absence of strivings." He compares them to chasms on either side of a narrow ridge.
The ridge represents a path made up of spiritual practices that "place us before God as a living sacrifice." It is in this place, where there is an interactive relationship with God, that He can do the work of transformation.
I can say with certainty that I want to be on that ridge, although I don't yet truly understand what that means, what it requires, or even how it will happen. Where the spiritual disciplines Foster describes are concerned, this 53-year-old could just as well be the 7- year-old little girl who felt Jesus calling during a church service. There was no doubt about going Forward, but I still had so very much to learn.
Now, as then, I am moving into territory where anything beyond the basics is new and/or unknown to me. While I am here, open and willing to walk along this path, seeking after God in these new ways, I have to admit I am a little self-conscious about my unknowing.
In one of his recent daily meditations, Fr. Richard Rohr included something that really gave me perspective, though. In his entry for January 26, 2020, Rohr writes, "Alongside our knowing must be the equal and honest 'knowing that I do not know...' Strangely enough, this unknowing offers us a new kind of understanding, though we have an old word for it:
Rohr goes on to say it's not necessary to know everything right now, because faith puts us right where we need to be, held by and growing within something much bigger than ourselves - a God who fully knows us, and who someday we will fully know.
(To read Rohr's entire meditation and access other excellent reflections on contemplation and action, click here.)
As I dig deeper into Foster's book and other resources, as well as examine my own spiritual journey, I'll write about some of my experiences and how these practices are opening up my life to God in a new and exciting way. My hope is that you will join me on this journey by sharing the experiences and practices God has used to shape your life and faith.
What practices have you engaged in, and how has God changed you through them? Comment below, or e-mail me!