Monday, April 11, 2011

Hacking my lungs out

In October of 2007 I boarded a plan that would take me (via four different layovers) to Perth, Australia for a six month Discipleship Training School (DTS) through Youth with a Mission (YWAM). I thought I was going to learn how to disciple others and be a better missionary, and while those things happened, I mostly ended up being discipled myself. To this day, those six months were some of the most meaningful of my life. I put a lot of things on the altar that badly needed to be burned. Sins that Jesus had forgiven me for, but I had yet to let go of. I had never felt so free in my life....that is, except for those pesky little "sins" that kept crawling off the altar called unbelief and the idol of intellectualism. At least, that's what I was told they were called. I knew I had a problem. Sometimes things would be going great! -awesome quiet times, powerful worship times, meaningful prayers, and then inevitably a question would come up that I couldn't answer and I would find myself rocking back and forth on my bed wondering if God was even real. This couldn't possibly be what God wanted for me as a missionary, I was supposed to be someone of great faith. And besides didn't James 1:6-8 say, 
"...for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." ?
Yes, surely my doubts, my questions, my thirst for understanding must all be from Satan himself. This conclusion was confirmed by my leaders during lectures on "Freedom in Christ" week.

Before I go any further with this story (because it's about to get freaky weird), I just want to say a word about YWAM. First, I love YWAM. I love their heart for the nations and I can assure you I would not be the person I am today without the impact that my DTS had on my life. If the Lord led, I would go back with YWAM in a heartbeat. Having said that, there were a few things that happened during that six months that I don't really agree with and this story is one of them.

All the students in my class were eagerly anticipating the climax of our Freedom in Christ week, which would be application day. In past weeks, application day had been a powerful time of spiritual renewal and the Spirit of God was always faithful to move in unexpected ways. We had spent the last week going over all the areas of our lives where we needed to see major freedom. For some it was freedom from self hatred, others depression, and so on. Mine? Freedom from the "spirit of intellectualism and doubt". This "spirit" had tormented me for too long and I was looking forward to getting rid of it once and for all. On application day our class sat in chairs in a big circle while our school leader stood in the middle. We opened by praying that the Spirit would do a miracle in our hearts that day. We were given instructions that whenever our leader read off the area of sin that we needed freedom from, we were to cough as a physical representation of the work that the Lord would do in us. Coughing, representing him casting out the spirit of sin. Wait, what? Ok, so that's a little weird, but honestly I was so desperate to be free of it, I was willing to try anything. I mean, God does what he wants in really weird ways sometimes, like speaking through Balaam's donkey or spitting in dirt to heal a blind man. My sin was further down the list so I got to observe for a bit while my classmates started hacking their lungs out. Some began sobbing and praying out loud, begging for God to free them from their bondage. The more they coughed, the more God was supposedly getting rid of. I became more and more aware of how badly I myself wanted to be free. So when he got to doubt and intellectualism I started coughing with the best of them. I coughed and coughed. Then I started sobbing. Then I lay prostrate on the floor, a pool of tears and snot forming under my face, begging God to do something. But nothing was happening. I did not feel any freedom. In fact I started feeling worse. Am I doing this for the wrong reasons? Am I just acting? Has this idol so captured my soul that I'm not really wanting to give it up? Does God hate me? Because why on earth wouldn't He heal of this when I need it so badly? The more I coughed, the worse I felt, the more I sobbed. Meanwhile, all my friends and the leaders think I'm having some sort of spiritual breakthrough. An hour later my leader finished. Some people felt like they had encountered God and had broken bondage. And others I could see, felt just like me. I went back to my room and took a nap, my voice completely gone from coughing. 

The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment has been blowing my mind this past week. This book gets me. And that's really nice sometimes. Here is how the author better describes the plight of the reflective Christian (maybe more commonly referred to as a doubter):
"The reflective person is first and foremost, a question asker- one who finds in every experience and assertion something that requires further investigation. He or she is a stone-turner, attracted to the creepy crawly things that live under rocks and behind human pronouncements. The writer of Ecclesiastes was such a person: "I directed my mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom and an explanation..." (Eccles 7:25). To be reflective is to be sensitive to and fascinated by the complexity of things. It entails an openness to the nuances and grace notes of life, and it implies an eye for hidden beauties and white-washed sepulchers. The reflective person seeks demarcation in the indivisible and finds unity in diversity, discovering likeness in seemingly unlike things."

The truth is, my problem was labelled wrong. It wasn't the sin of intellectualism and doubt. It was me struggling to deal with the fact that I'm a reflective Christian. Thankfully, God has been so faithful to show me, to prove to me that I was made this way for a purpose. But with that purpose there is a hard road ahead. I think I've always known it was going to be hard, but just because something is hard doesn't mean God doesn't intend for us to do it. And here's where the reality is: I need freedom from bondage. But it isn't bondage from my questions and my mind, it's bondage from the paralysis that comes with those questions. The author continues by remembering his own struggle with this, 
"What stands out most clearly is the paradoxical combination of constant motion and paralysis. My mind was constantly moving, but my will was paralyzed. A great sense of wonder and complexity and challenge of being human was the gift of my growing reflectiveness. The cost was an ever diminishing ability to say, 'This is true, that is not; this is good, that is evil; this I will do, that should not be done.'"

I don't have a nice pretty way to wrap this up. Obviously I'm still learning, still being lead. But on my worst days, the days when the questions are too much, my memory tells me that I "have tasted and seen that the Lord is good." I will fix my eyes upon Him, I will preach the Gospel to myself, reminding myself that He loves me and He knows what He's doing. And I will keep reflecting on Him, for surely I am not in any danger of ever getting to the bottom of Him.

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