Monday, June 29, 2009

Somebody, Please, Smack Me Upside the Head

In my last three posts I shared with you what God revealed to me about my sin of failing to submit to spiritual authority. I shared some of the consequences of rejecting those in authority over me and how freeing it is to submit and how important it is to heed the instruction of those God has placed over you. Today I want to share some of the things in my life that brought me to the point that I recognized my sin and was finally able to do something about it. I want to share because I think it will highlight the way God works in our lives, through His Church, the Body of Christ, His Word, and through circumstances.

It is hard to know exactly where to start, but I will start at the point that I realized that I was in a spiritual desert. You can read more about that here and/or here. I heard a message (Jim Mindling of Open Door Christian Church in Elyria, OH) one day that opened my eyes to the fact that I was in a dry place spiritually and that I was in that desert place for a reason. Up until that point, I just felt like a failure in my Christian walk because I was so stuck and felt useless in the Kingdom. Here is one of the first places that God started using people in my life to bring me up out of the desert.

My friend Debbie, who was the person who originally shared the gospel with me, told me one day in early summer of 2007 that she had heard a message and that message was for me. She felt it would speak into my life and help me with the place I was in spiritually. She had no idea how life changing hearing that message would be, so I chalk it up to the providence of God.

At the same time I heard that message and was pondering it, our church began a summer series in our SaLT groups that explored how small groups should look and what their purpose within our churches should be. That study impacted me because it forced me to see how I was not transparent with the people in my group. Small groups within our churches should promote and foster deep meaningful relationships amongst believers and if I am not sharing about where I am spiritually, how are the people I surround myself supposed to know how to pray for me, or how to help me?

I really took that study seriously and it also made me consider another message I had heard earlier in 2007 about "doing life together". I started thinking about how I had been in the same SaLT group for years, but didn't feel intimately connected with anyone in it. I wasn't sharing life with anybody, I was meeting with them weekly studying God's Word, but not living it out. I was not experiencing any type of spiritual connection and thus was missing the point of "Sharing and Learning Truth" or "Serving and Learning Together" or "Sharing and Learning Together" or whatever SaLT stands for! I became acutely aware that as Christians we do need to be intentional about reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, carrying one another's burdens, praying with one another, confessing our sins to one another and learning to love God together. We weren't meant to do it on our own. So, one day in a SummerSaLT gathering I confessed I was in a spiritual desert and that it was sad that people in my group may have had no idea.

I am introverted and so for me to reach out to people takes some extra effort on my part and requires me to really step out of my comfort zone. I made a conscious decision to go to a woman in my group that I felt would be good mentor because of her spiritual maturity and also for the fact that she seemed to be affected by the study of what a small group should be as well. It seemed we both were desiring to experience "doing life together". What is interesting to note here is that for years my friend Katie felt that Karen would be a good match for me in that sense and so through Katie's urging, I went to Karen. We both prayed about it and a connection was formed. We began to meet for prayer, study and fellowship consistently every couple of weeks and have been doing so ever since. It has enriched my life tremendously!

Many months later, in January of 2008, God placed another person in my life. Again, armed with my readiness to step out of my comfort zone of introvertedness and "do life together" I went out on a limb and contacted a person whom I had only had limited "conversation" with online. When we met we immediately hit it off and a year and a half later we are close friends. What has been so special to me about the relationship with my friend Ellen, is that there is a comfortableness in sharing. Also, because she was just getting to know me and came to my life with an unpredjudiced view of who I am, she was able to see things in it that I never had before. She helped me to see things that needed some attention and encouraged me to see things with a different perspective. She was very patient with me as I have stumbled through this past year! LOL

Last May I took my first steps out of the spiritual desert I was stranded in for so long. For the first time in years I was experiencing a newness with God again. I was feeling His Presence in my life. I could pray again! With a renewed sensitivity to the Spirit of the Living God, I was about to go through some spiritual struggles that would eventually lead me into a place of revelation, confession, repentance and growth.

My friend Katie has also been instrumental throughout my spiritual struggle in the desert and loved me unconditionally through it all. She has always been a source of comfort in that way and has put up with a lot of the consequences of my being there. She dealt with my critical spirit, skeptism, doubt, short-temper, and all other things associated with not being in right relationship with God. She has also adjusted to me as I've been growing in the emergence of a new spiritual place in my life. Believe me, it hasn't been easy.

For years I placed the blame on my lack of spiritual growth on various things like other people, broken things in my house, finances not being where I'd like them, studying too much brainiac stuff at church and not paying attention to heart conditions, but never did I look to myself. The people God put in my life, Katie, Karen, Ellen, as well as many at Northbrook Church, by praying for me and helping me see certain things finally broke through.

Finally I got the smack upside the head I needed and went to counsel with a pastor. (Some of that I shared about in previous posts so I won't go back there with this post. ) When I think back to first being told to listen to a message about being in a spiritual desert and then watching how God orchestrated events, circumstances and people all around me to gently prompt me out of the desert and into His oasis, I'm in awe. It bloggles the mind! He was gentle and merciful through this whole process and to Him belongs the glory!

I've learned so much through this experience, and one main thing I hope to always remember is to listen to the people God has placed in my life. Not everybody is matter of fact and gets to the point right away and some Godly wisdom and insight was shared with me but I was too blind, or stubborn, to see it. I hope that I have learned to be more attentive to the words people speak to me. I am praying that it won't take someone smacking me upside the head to point out my sin, but if it does, I pray that God puts that person, or people, there with the conviction to do it. I sure am thankful that He did this time.

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