2012 First Quarter Report: Maturity by Subtraction

Well.  I despise blogs that are running autobiographies and I have no desire to write one; a blog should be about something.  This blog is about spiritual and theological reflection — which is a bit of mission creep from my original purpose, but that’s where we are now.  However, I’ve also found that over the last year or so, a lot has been going on in my life that lends itself to theological and spiritual reflection, and some of it, I think, is worth talking about.  So this year I’m performing a blogging experiment: I am giving myself permission, once a quarter, to wax a little autobiographical.  I did a brace of posts, one to close out 2011 and another to open 2012, back at the turn of the year.  March has passed, and another installment is due.  Gentle Reader: your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me whether the experiment is a good idea, or self-indulgent crap that should be discontinued at once.  I’ll do my best to avoid self-indulgence, of course, but I am not always the best judge, so I’m trusting you with this one.

2011 had been a year of wreckage: God took my life apart, and I knew He wasn’t done yet.  Early in 2012, several friends confirmed this, some speaking prophetically and others speaking from God-given wisdom and long experience.  I wanted to start building, and it wasn’t time yet; there was more stuff that had to go.  Some of it was good stuff, but not for me, and not right now.  Most of that I can’t talk about here, Gentle Reader, because it involves other people — sensitive details, reputations and so on.  I’m not trying to hurt anybody here.

Let me say this much, though.  A year and a half ago, I tried to launch a thing I was initially calling the “Institute for Cultural Transformation.”  It was a boring name, and as we kicked around alternatives, we eventually settled on “Headwaters.”  As I look back, I can see the timing was bad, the mix of people was not right, the institutional ties were not where they needed to be — all kinds of external problems that I didn’t have the wisdom and leadership qualities to see at the time.  But even worse, I wasn’t ready.  I lacked the leadership ability, the internal compass, the relational development and credibility to pull the thing off.  Predictably, it was an absolute disaster.  Nor was it a simple case of “young guy bites off more than he can chew and then nature takes its course.”  There was that, but there were some people in the mix who did not have my interests at heart, and a few who were actively out to hurt me.  In the end, their designs didn’t matter; God took all that and used it to rip all kinds of things out of my life that needed to go.

Back when I was a lot younger, I used to think that the people I admired had a lot that I didn’t have yet — skill sets, resources, wisdom, alliances and so on.  I conceived of maturity as a process of gaining what they had that I lacked, and I aspired to that process.  Over time, I have come to realize that what most distinguishes the people I admire is what they don’t have — illusions, ego involvements, needs to please particular people, self-defeating commitments, selfishness, bureaucratic entanglements, fears of censure.  There is tremendous power in clarity and focus, and these mostly don’t come from trying harder; they come from what you aren’t, what you don’t have, what you don’t do.

God’s way is absolutely perfect.  Maybe He could have brought me here by a different road, but here’s what I know: what God is now giving me is a direct result of the “worst” things that happened in my life over the last 2 years.  As I look back at how everything came together, I can’t imagine it working if it had happened any differently.  God shook my whole world, as the author of Hebrews might say, that the things which cannot be shaken might remain.

The results have begun to roll in, so let me share some of the good news.  Just a couple months ago, we successfully formed  Headwaters Christian Resources, a nonprofit dedicated to local ministry in Englewood and resource development for the Body of Christ worldwide.  We launched the formal organization with the actual work largely already underway: youth ministry, middle school chronological Bible curriculum design, psalm-singing, and so on.  God gave us exactly the right people for our board, the resources we needed to do the work.  Almost immediately, we began to see additional opportunities.  There are a couple of fruitful possibilities for collaboration on the table right now (about which more if they pan out — I don’t want to be counting unhatched chickens here).

Meanwhile, God also began to nudge us to consider a church plant.  From several sources, God confirmed that we needed to move, so we set our first meeting for Good Friday, still not sure how well launching another community would mesh with the work we were already doing.  Then, at a Wednesday youth meeting, one of our kids (not knowing any of our plans) suddenly burst out with “You guys should start a church!  I would totally come to that!”  Confirmation.

On Good Friday, we met.  We ate a meal together, talked about where all this might go, sang, had a short devotional, and shared the Lord’s Table together.  (That last is a serious departure from common Good Friday ecclesiastical practice, but an Easter service was logistically impossible for us this year, so we kinda combined the two.)  It went well.

Today, some of us will gather for a pot-luck supper with members of two other recent church plants.  Next week, we’ll be joining one of those church plants for an evening of singing psalms and fellowship.  After that?  We don’t know yet.

The train has begun to roll.  How fast God adds momentum is up to Him.  Me?  I’m along for the duration.  My fellow-travelers are gems, each and all; I’d gladly join up just for the good company.

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