Can God Really Do This?
There was a period of time where I was at the end of myself as I sank on the floor at the foot of our bed, crying out to God. I felt hopeless, and full of darkness. I remember feeling desperate in my soul – “God if you don’t help soon, I will crack and everything that I am holding onto so tightly will fall to the ground.” The pressure was intense leading up to that point, and I was barely able to put words to the intensity of my feelings inside.
I prayed and cried and simply did my best to focus on my Father and what He would say to me…it was also in that moment that I realized that my religion was once again just a placeholder in the bookcase of my mind – containing no saving power, no positive note. Cold empty memorization and ritual are usually meaningless to people who have been jaded by religion, and I myself after years of being a Christian, am no different.
I suppose it all started when I again picked up the book “Wild at Heart”…
There on my lunch break, I was reading the author’s story of when he makes mention of a powerful example of breaking free and finding a new paradigm, “venturing out into the Wild with God”:
(The author has gone to a second hand book store and picked up a book by Gil Bailie)
In the introduction to the book that I rose to this day, the author (Gil Bailie) shares a piece of advice given to him some years back by a spiritual mentor:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I was struck dumb. It could have been Balaam’s donkey, for all I was concerned. Suddenly my life up till that point made sense in a sickening sort of way; I realized I was living a script written for me by someone else. All my life I had been asking the world to tell me what to do with myself. This is different from responsibility and especially freedom from risk. I wanted someone else to tell me who to be. Thank God it didn’t work. The scripts they handed me I simply could not bring myself to play for very long. Like Saul’s armor, they never fit. Can a world of posers tell you to do anything but pose yourself? As Buechner says, ‘We are in constant danger of being not actors in our lives but reactors, to go where the world takes us, to drift with whatever current happens to be running the strongest’. Reading the counsel given to Bailie I knew it was God speaking to me. It was an invitation to come out of Ur. I set the volume down without turning another page and walked out of that bookstore to find a life worth living.
I applied to graduate school and got accepted. That program would turn out to be far more than a career move; out of the transformation that took place there I became a write, counselor and speaker. The whole trajectory of my life changed and with it the lives of many, many other people. But I almost didn’t go. You see, when I applied to school I hadn’t a nickel to pay for it. I was married with three children and a mortgage, and that’s the season when most men completely abandon their dreams and back down from jumping off anything. The risk just seems too great.
The author then goes on to describe the events that surrounded that turning point. Right after that event, he received a series of phone calls. The first of which was from a very prestigious firm in Washington (where he once lived as a “hard charging perfectionist” that became very successful).
I really identified and appreciated his candor when he also wrote,
“God was thickening the plot, testing my resolve. Down one road was my dream and desire, which I had no means to pay for, and an absolutely uncertain future after that; down the other was a comfortable step up the ladder of success, a very obvious next career move and the total loss of my soul.”
“Wow! He nailed it”, I thought as my mind echoed these thoughts. It was so refreshing to see someone else’s story – plain as day. There it was…I knew it!!! (and have known it for some time – but I have written many things on my past and what has lead me up to this point in life) As I sat and thought about it, I have endured some form of restlessness, in varying intensities, since the age of 15 when I went on my first mission trip and knew God was calling me into some kind of ministry. It takes a discerning heart – one that is guided by the Spirit, because it is also easy to take our uneasiness and turn it to our advantage instead of trusting the Lord. I think the author of the book, “Wild at Heart” captures this best:
…I am saying that our false self demands a formula before he’ll engage; he wants a guarantee of success, and mister, you aren’t going to get one. So there comes a time in a man’s life when he’s got to break away from all that and head into the unknown with God. This is a vital part of our journey and if we balk here, the journey ends.
This one passage nailed me between the eyes. Never in my life have I read something so penetrating and pointed right at me. It was like the words in this book spoke directly to my thoughts right at that exact moment…Through each situation, I felt like my heart simply wouldn’t engage…there was something about both of these opportunities that both drew me and pushed me away at the same time. It’s like the mold didn’t fit, but that’s all I knew to look at. Deep in my heart, I had a growing desire to be a pastor, speaker and author, but have had no idea how to even find this. Where do I begin? I really didn’t want to be a missionary then or now, but I honestly maintained the stance that I would be willing to do so as long as I could discern the Lord’s leading – not necessarily the absence of fear, but the presence of his peace, as well as a sense of timing.
The most powerful thing that happened took place in my mind right after I read these words. I received a desktop bible calendar from my brother Joey last Christmas. For some reason, I didn’t feel like changing the verse of the day from February, 10th. On that day the little calendar read Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:28-30:
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.
Right then and there I heard a penetrating voice echo these same words in my mind, “do you believe I am able to do this?” as I sat and thought about living my life in full abandon to the Lord – and what that would look like. In other words, do you believe that I am able to take a tall wiry, often over opinionated and critical, simple white boy from America, and make him a Kingdom man, or a pastor and speaker and teacher? The tears came as I sat in silence, stunned at the intensity of this encounter – It wasn’t like I saw a hand writing on the windshield of my truck. It was simply a powerful and intensely personally encounter with my Father God. And with all my heart, I was grateful for it…
My mind read the words in the “Wild at Heart” book again – specifically the section about reaching out and trusting God for guidance. Romans 12:2 came to mind (God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect).
It was like for some strange reason I looked around after closing my eyes for what seemed like an eternity only to see myself on top of a mountain looking all around me – as far as the eye could see. I began to see overlaps and parallels from other books I had read like “The Dream Giver”, which really stirred me the first time I read it. I then began to ponder the passion that the Lord gave me for living the dream inside me to be a true man of God – a pastor, teacher and speaker. For example, through our church, I have developed a love for connecting hurting people with God’s love – through my writings or words, or even presence (as Stephen Ministry has taught me). And I know I spend a great deal of mental energy working towards a life that resembles the picture that has been painted in my mind.
In closing, I reflected on two separate passages from James, chapter 1:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (Emphasis: God gives generously to all without finding fault & not doubting God)
I then noticed James 1:17:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (Emphasis: God gives good and perfect gifts)
I then caught the parallel from the passage in Matthew – “Can God Really Do This???”, and how I must respond with an attitude of faith and trust – “believing and not doubting”. This response should be framed in the mindset that God’s will is good, pleasing and perfect (from Romans 12:1-2).