I wrote this a few years ago and I never got around to posting it. I feel like I needed to hear my own words, and so I edited it a little, because it turns out a lot has happened in the last three years.
Fair warning: If you don’t consider yourself spiritual or a Christian in faith, please feel free to continue reading, however, I will be speaking from my perspective of being a Christ-follower so you’ll have to wade through the Christian’ese language and try your best to find where this might apply to your life. I do hope it speaks to everyone like it does to me.
There is a episode of a podcast from my church that continues to help me grow. The title of the podcast is “The Circle of Life – Matt Cassidy“. This podcast has given words to so many moments in my life and I wanted to try to summarize it for you, so here goes:
The majority (if not all) christians go through 5 steps or stages in their spiritual life/journey.
Stage 1 – Someone gives their life to Christ and they receive His life in return, they are “born again”.
Stage 2 – This person wants to go deeper. They desire more and more understanding. Keep in mind, like a toddler, this stage is growth focused, but mostly about you, and how others can help you grow, not necessarily how you can help others.
Stage 3 – This person is eager and excited to give back. He/She wants to get involved so they typically find a team to start serving on and they invest their time and relational energy into this. Typically this isn’t entirely altruistic as this is just the next step in “wanting more”.
Before I go on to the next two steps I should clarify something. The first three steps are the bread and butter of most evangelical churches in America. Get saved, Read your Bible, Get involved. These are the sacred three for many churches, however many churches stop here. God has designed us to keep moving. It’s important to note that it can be very destructive to not move past stage three as people will eventually feel used. The church cannot fulfill their needs, only Jesus can. The pastors/priests/staff cannot fulfill their needs, only Jesus can. No one else but Jesus can fulfill their needs. This can often create bitterness in pastors, priests, staff and volunteers within a church, as the desire of your heart is to grow closer with Jesus but you are filling it with “getting people involved” or “getting involved” yourself. This leads us to stage 4.
Stage 4 – The Wall. This stage is where the fluffy, high energy, bumper sticker Jesus falls short. This person experiences a wall: something their simple faith won’t get them past. Someone in their family dies, their church implodes, a pandemic happens, their pastor has a moral failure, something that calls into question the solidity of their belief(s). Just saying things like “let go, and let God” doesn’t work anymore and there tend to be three major responses to the Wall when people hit it.
a. Forget it – it’s too much, I’m done with this. Many times people leave church because the answers they are seeking aren’t being met by the cookie cutter christianity they have experienced.
b. Double Down – These people tend to white knuckle it. It’s too scary to have to deal with all the emotions and pain, so instead of dealing with it they try harder, serve harder, all the while the bitterness and pain builds inside them as they choose to ignore the pain.
c. Surrender – These people believe that God has to have the answers, even if it’s not clear now. I believe Moses experienced this when he told God that he refused to leave until God showed him His glory. There are no easy answers. This person is acknowledging that their faith has to grow, their bumper sticker sayings aren’t enough. God can no longer be contained in a neat box or silly slogan.
Stage 5 – The Journey Outward. There is so little left of you that God begins to fill all the places. You begin to love people again, but this time it’s far more about them, than you. Self, in so many ways has been left on the altar and there is room for God to fill you with His desires.
If you end up listening to the podcast, you’ll find that no one gets to stay at stage 5. The journey of life takes us back, again and again, to different “walls” and again we get to choose how we will respond to them.
Much like the rest of the world, I’m back at the wall with regards to our current day and age. COVID-19 has changed everything. Racism feels alive and well in our country, and our political parties all seem to be touting one narcissist over the other. I can choose to give up hope. I could double down and pretend that it’s all been taken out of context and really isn’t as bad as everyone says it is. Or I could surrender to what I believe to be the Truth, that God can meet us in the middle of it all, because it’s real, painful, and a bit scary, and He promises to bring light in this darkness. He promises to be with us (Emmanuel) and teach us how we can love like He does.
What wall is currently before you?
What would it look like to surrender?
Lord please bring light in this darkness. I surrender all the hopelessness, fear, racism, pride, in me so that you can shine more.