Saturday, April 10, 2010

Perseverance - the whole story

Here's the entire post of what I shared here. I didn't want to open myself up completely, but oh well - here it goes.

I'm not real comfortable sharing my deepest thoughts, fear, frustrations, etc. in such a public manner, so just know that the sentence I'm about to type is backed up by tears, sleepless nights, painful goodbyes, bitter goodbyes, massive self-doubt, feelings of hopelessness, a mild depression, almost written resignation letters and an attempt to lead a church while lacking any compelling vision. And now, the icing on the cake, an almost 40% reduction in salary and a new early morning package-handling job at FedEx in Lenexa.

This past year has been one of, if not the, most difficult years in my life.

I was talking with my dad about this a few weeks ago and he told me he'd had an intense time of prayer for me just the day before. He knows how I've been feeling and his heart was breaking for me. He told me, "you'll never understand how much I love you." I actually tell Dawson that all the time, so I understand the fatherly emotion. In that time of prayer, Dad sensed God's reassurance that as much as my dad loves me, God loves me even more and is going to sustain me. Dad sensed this idea from God, "I'm not going to kill Donnie, he's going to survive. However, I've got a few things still to teach him." So Dad counseled me to stay sensitive to God's voice and to stay teachable. I don't remember if it was from Dad or my own thoughts, but the idea of "don't waste this time of trial" was discussed between us.

Dad also called a former pastor of ours, a guy my dad respects as much as anyone he knows and whom he still thinks of as "pastor." This pastor told dad, "Donnie seems to be going through what every pastor goes through sometime between year 2 and year 10 of pastoring. A time in which they question everything and wonder whether it's all worth it. We all go through it."

That discussion was a few weeks ago. Just this morning, I was reading a sermon delivered by Reuben Welch in a student chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University in 1976. The sermon was from a series Welch did on the book of Hebrews and the book is appropriately titled, When You Run Out Of Fantastic, Persevere. There's a lot of great stuff in this book that has been speaking directly to me; mourning the loss of dreams and aspirations, following Christ for his own sake even when it feels like it could cost you everything, throwing off the sin that entangles us as we're running the journey. The quote I'm about to write here is commentary Hebrews 12:3-11, specifically verses 11, "No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it's painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way."

Here's what Reuben Welch had to say:

A part of that different attitude that I need to take toward my troubles and trials is not only that God is present in them, and is doing something in my life, but that purpose for which God is working is nothing less than my sharing the likeness of His character, and being a partaker of His holiness.
That's an awesome thing.
What is God's motive? What is the direction of the love motive that moves me in discipline? It is that I may be a partaker of His holiness.
I wonder then:
is it true that there really is no authentic sharing of the character of God without suffering? Is there no way for us to become truly holy person, without discipline?

And I guess when it comes right down to it, sometimes trouble comes to us, and I don't understand all about it, but I know that a part of what we need to do is back off,
and pour it out to God, and expose to God the depths of our lives and say, "Lord, what are you trying to say to me? What changes need to take place in me?"
Well, I'm convinced of this, that God has something to say to us, that He is not uninvolved in all of these things that confront us, and that what He is saying to us, what he is confronting us with, is the call to share His holiness, which manifests itself in righteousness as its fruit.
We need to take a different attitude toward our troubles. God is at work in them, is present in them, and what He is doing is conforming us to the image of His Son - to share in His holiness.

Our Father, so often our troubles separate us from Thee. Your discipline makes us sometimes restive and rebellious. Teas us to look to Jesus - to consider Him and so to respond to Thee in our hard times that we will be more Christlike, more holy. Cleanse our hearts of the attitudes that would frustrate Thy healing and unifying work in us.

Thanks to Pastor Andy for giving me this book. In his usually cheerful way, he said "y'all need to read this book!"

Please pray for me. Pray that I stay open and obedient to God during this difficult time.

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