Walking with God…sometimes it’s running ridges like a mountain goat or a calm walk along the beach, but often God leads into the deep places, the valley of the shadow of death. If it’s Yahweh we serve, we have to be as ready for the thick darkness of Sinai and Golgotha as the light of Mount Tabor — “if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.” Like all the really important things in the Christian life, this is much easier to talk about than to actually do.
Ditching “Theologian” as a label for myself (as I discussed last week) allows me to dump a whole set of agendas and expectations that never did make much Kingdom sense. The publication credits, conferences, contacts, all the accoutrements of building a personal empire — I suppose in the right hands all these things can be made to serve Kingdom ends. But in my hands, they were building a career. A career of service to the Body, sure. It would all have been very defensible. But in His hard mercy, God had something else in mind for me, something that required a major humbling and the resulting change of heart. He who exalts himself will be abased, and God did that for me. I’m not gonna lie to you; it sucked like a brand new vacuum cleaner. Being humbled is a miserable experience. It has to be, otherwise it’s not humbling.
This is what it takes, I suppose, to become the supple clay that the potter can mold into whatever He desires. Maybe other people yield better than I do, and don’t have to take such a pounding to become soft, but this is what it took for me.
So now what? The temptation, of course, is to wallow in the mire. I can say “I’m just a bus driver — what could I do for the Kingdom?” It would all be very defensible, again. “I got humbled, remember? I can’t do that kind of work anymore. God took it all away.” But of course, that’s foolishness. If God can ordain praise from the mouth of nursing infants, certainly He can use me. I don’t really get to say I’m “just” a bus driver, because a Christian is never “just” anything. We are partakers of the divine nature, heirs of God, the hands of Jesus to minister in the world, and His feet under which Satan will shortly be crushed.
So now what? What shall I call myself? “Bus driver” doesn’t exactly ring with the sort of Kingdom expectations I need. It’s a good thing to be, and at a certain point in the story, there’s nothing wrong with it. But I’m already visibly more than that — God is already adding things back into my life. (Which is exactly what I should have expected, because Jesus’ promise is good: seek first the Kingdom, and all these things will be added. Some exciting stuff is going on there, Gentle Reader, but more of that anon.) So what can I say about myself at this point? What shall I aim for, and who am I?
I’m not sure I can answer that yet. I know for sure that if I’d tried to answer that question back in the summer, the answer would have been way, way off — there was still too much stuff in my life that needed to be stripped away, too much deconstruction that I couldn’t yet see. I’ve come a long way since then. A lot of what God stripped away was good stuff, too — I wouldn’t have been into it if it weren’t, and it wouldn’t have been so hard to accept losing those things if they hadn’t been good. But every good opportunity is not my good opportunity, and there was a lot in my life that is not part of where God is taking me next. Those things had to go; not everything good is good for me.
As I said, God is already bringing new things forward in my life, building up new ministry endeavors and giving me new relationships and opportunities. Some of the old ones have been deepened and transformed as well — it’s very good. But I have this sense — very strongly confirmed by a friend I trust — that if I lean too hard into the new things right now, I will truncate some of the blessings God has for me.
It’s like God is building me a mansion on a plot of ground that holds a swayback shack and a briarpatch. Half the shack is bulldozed down and a bunch of the ground is cleared, and He’s already starting to build. But if I dive into the building project now, I’ll wind up with a briarpatch smack in the middle of the living room, and there will be no place for the east wing, because the wreckage of the shack is still in the way. God is building, and He’s letting me see it, and this gives me hope. But he wants me to focus on clearing the ground. Up to now, I’ve been simply trying to deal well with whatever ground God chose to clear, trying to accept the suffering as necessary. Now, though, I’m ready to be God’s partner in removing whatever needs to go. He has to provide the wherewithal, of course; I can’t do this in my own strength. But I’m ready to remove what needs to go.
He who saves his life, as Jesus said, will lose it. There’s still more deconstruction to do. Here’s to the deep places in the earth; we find diamonds nowhere else.