The place where demons taunt you…

Have you ever felt like you’re wandering?

Call it “wandering,” “the valley,” “a low,” “the wilderness,” “obscurity” or whatever you want. Regardless of what you choose to call it, wandering is lonely, painful and quite honestly, the most uncomfortable place to be.

Jonathan Martin, in Prototype (by the way, if you think I’m going to stop referencing this book anytime soon, you’re wrong…so, just go buy yourself a copy), calls this place “the wilderness.” He explains why we, as humans, dislike the wilderness so much,

“In our culture of constant access and nonstop media, nothing feels more like a curse from God than time in the wilderness. To be obscure, to be off the beaten path, to be in the wilderness feel like abandonment. It seems more like exile than vacation. To be so far off everyone’s radar that the world might forget about us for a while? That’s almost akin to death.”

The first time I read the header to the section on the wilderness, I literally laughed out loud (and not in a good way), “The Gift of Wilderness.” The dialogue in my head went something like this, “Gift…GIFT?! This must be a joke.” It wasn’t. And in a much shorter time than I imagined, Jonathan’s words had me trying to rethink the way that I look at this time of obscurity in my life,

“…God draws people into obscurity — into the wilderness — not because He’s angry with them or because they aren’t “successful enough,” but because He wants to go deeper in His relationship with them.”

I paused when I read that line, and had there been a lightbulb floating above my head, I think it literally would have started flashing obnoxiously. Deeper, deeper…DUH, He wants me to go deeper with Him.

I use busyness and a social life to avoid dealing with problems I’m facing and mostly to avoiding fleshing things out with God. This is the scenario I always try to hide from…I’m sitting in my room, lights off, candle burning, Bible in front of me, tears streaming down my face, everything I don’t want to deal with swelling up in my head. Sound familiar? I don’t want to feel the pain, yell, and fight until someone wins…and let me tell you, it’s NEVER me. But, if we don’t fight, how is our relationship with Him supposed to grow or change (cue another lightbulb moment)Jonathan describes this uneasy situation much better than I can, “Amid the constant noise of our daily lives, we don’t have to reflect too deeply on what we’re afraid of or what we’re suppressing or even what we love. But the wilderness is where our demons come out to taunt us. That’s why most of us don’t want to go there.”

Maybe, just maybe, we can start to see this place of pain as more than just that, pain, but also as a place of growth and healing.

Yes, I’m wandering. But, if force myself to sit down, and have that fight with God…even if I have to have the same fight a million times over, maybe I’ll come out on the other side shiny and new.

I’m really trying to believe the words that Jonathan ended this chapter with (and maybe you can too), “All the good stuff happens in obscurity.


The Burgundy Character of Cambridge

Since being in Cambridge, we have been attending class inside of a church/community center. Once a semester, the Vicar (priest), Michael likes to talk to us Cambridge students about St. Paul’s. We were told he would talk to us for a few minutes and then we could ask some questions about the Anglican tradition and what the church in general is like in the UK, etc.

I have frequently seen Vicar Michael around the church as we’ve attended class and volunteered at community events. The Vicar, a very distinguished looking man, is normally in a monochromatic outfit of some sorts (my favorite was the burgundy sweatshirt with burgundy vest and burgundy hat, I’ll never forget this image of him). He is a very charismatic man. He’s always walking about jovially shouting at people in his thick cockney accent (East End Londoner accent – think Eliza Doolittle) and telling me to ignore his son Max, as he frequently asks me out (that’s a WHOLE ‘nother story). The first time I heard the Vicar pray, at a luncheon, I opened my eyes to find tears because it was one of the most eloquent, genuine prayers I had ever heard in my life.

Because of my strong hate of crying, God punishes me (jk….) by making me cry in nearly every church service or spiritual thing I’m involved in. Two months ago, when I realized that this man’s simple lunch prayer had the ability to make me tear-up, I knew that I needed to hear more from him.

This assumption was completely right. As he came to our class to “discuss the Anglican Christian tradition,” he began abruptly by telling us he was going to talk about his story and what brought him to where he is now:

As an 18-year-old he was given a “packet” of beliefs from his local church. This contained what he should believe, without much explanation. From that time, as a teenager, to now nearly being 60, he has been unpacking this “packet” that he received 40 years ago. As he wandered through the details and depths of his journey as a Christian, I was blown away with the relevant and challenging things he had to say.

We, as Christians, have spent too much time floating on the Biblical understanding of our parents or church or whoever. We aren’t supposed to just blindly accept the Christian practices of today or even the Bible without challenging it. If we don’t challenge something, how are we supposed to believe it, understand it or defend it?

The Christianity of our forefathers can be accused of being simply religion or lacking emotion. But then our generation (and some of the generation above us) was so anxious to “feel” something real that a personal relationship with Christ became the only important thing and knowledge went out the window. God, the God that we are meant to fear, became this:
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Now, don’t get me wrong…a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the whole point, but a supreme, all-knowing God doesn’t equivocate to a “homeboy” in my opinion. Knowing Christ has only become about playing a great worship set and sitting in His presence. Like I said, these aren’t bad things necessarily…but when we only know God based on a feeling, rather than knowledge of the Bible and our personal theology, there is a serious problem.

I want to find the balance. I want my relationship with Christ to be based on the fact that I feel His presence everywhere that I look, but I also want to know and understand who He was when He walked the earth. This concept of balance has been infiltrating every single spiritual thought that I’ve had in the last few months and I am desperately searching to find this balance.

Bottom line is this – I want to know Christ. From feeling to knowledge. Colorful characters like Michael, the Vicar, have helped me realize how important that is and have pushed me along a new way of knowing Jesus. I wouldn’t have discovered this way of knowing Christ without coming all the way to the United Kingdom, in Cambridge.

It’s funny why God will take you 4,000 miles away from home. If that’s the only reason I came here (which, by the way, it isn’t), then I am grateful.