[I am posting what I had supposed would be a book, one chapter at a time. As this "publication" continues, you will likely need to read chapters in order.]
When the most important things in our life happen we quite often do not know, at the moment, what is going on. A man does not always say to himself, ‘Hullo! I’m growing up.’ It is often only when he looks back that he realizes what has happened and recognizes it as what people call ‘growing up.’Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. HarperCollins e-books. p. 177
This book is an account of how I came to understand the extent of God’s love for me and the purposes for which I had been shaped and am being shaped. I share my journey of healing, growth, self-awareness, and understanding. I hope that it will inspire and encourage others on their journey.
The visions I saw and the conversations I had with the three persons of the triune God were recorded in my journal as the events unfolded over about six months. Except for collapsing and combining some events, I have remained faithful to my contemporaneous notes.
One of the remarkable aspects of my experience is that I didn’t understand what was happening at the time it was happening. I knew something was happening, but I didn’t understand what the something was. At the time my journey was unfolding, I knew nothing of spiritual formation and transformation. In the years since I first visited Pops’ workshop, I have learned much. I completed a two-year certificate program in Spiritual Direction and am now a Spiritual Director myself. I have learned much about spiritual formation that I did not know then. I have gained insights into what was happening with my soul as I spent time in Pops’ workshop. I will do my best to share those insights in the rest of this book.
Not knowing what was happening inside me was a grace. Had I studied and learned all that I now know I would have been suspicious that I was making up the things I experienced. Sometimes, we can move forward only through ignorance and naiveté. Had I understood the breadth and depth of the journey I was starting, I would likely have quailed and turned back. Learning after the fact has deepened my gratitude for the remarkable way the Lord called me out of my spiritual prison and brought me into the light and life of his love. He did it in a way and with a timing that kept me from fearing, doubting it, or rationalizing it away.
You are on a journey of relationship.
Each of us is on a journey with God, whether we know it or not. You may not even be sure he exists. You may believe in God but not that he has any particular interest in you. You may be so far down your road that the journey I recount here recalls an old memory for you. No matter where you are on the road, you have a journey to take, a journey to your unique experience of God, where you can experience the depth of his transformative love for you and learn the holy purposes for which you were made. If you are not yet on such a journey, I hope you will be inspired to begin. If you are already on the way, may you find encouragement to continue! If you know well his love for you, perhaps you will find the inspiration to go even deeper; there is always more.
My experiences of God were distinctive to me. God spoke to me in the ways I would respond to. Your way of experiencing God will be tailored for you and will necessarily be different than mine. The Lord meets each of us in ways that allow us to see, hear, feel, and know him.
God desires that we know him. His intention in creation was that we be in communion with him. The Bible tells us, in Genesis 3, what God’s intent is for us at the time of creation. There we see God walking among his creation, conversing with Adam and Eve as we converse with each other. But man falls prey to Satan’s deception. Adam and Eve’s love is turned and twisted away from God and toward themselves. They break the divine order. When, in their shame, they go into hiding, God misses them and seeks them (Gen 3:8–9).
Each of us, in our sin, also hides from God. Some of us stir up a smokescreen of business. Others hide behind rigid religious practices. Many, like me, have spent years erecting walls to protect ourselves from the wounds we experienced as we grew; but those walls can also remove us from God’s presence. Yet, God’s original design for us, and his desire to be in a love relationship with us, is not lessened by our sin or by our attempts to hide. He desires that we live in an intimate community with him, even in our humanity and brokenness. The strength of God’s desire is nearly incomprehensible: he sent his son to die so that we might have our relationship with him restored.
In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:14–17 MSG, emphasis added)
He is and always has been pursuing us.
God has spoken to me personally and directly. Some readers may be put off by the idea that God would speak to us as individuals in that way. If that is the case, this book will be a challenge for you. Nonetheless, we are designed to hear from God. Throughout the Bible, he speaks through dreams, visions, thoughts, impressions, and sometimes as a voice that seemingly is audible only to us. He still speaks in the same ways. Even our feelings and emotions can be the Lord trying to get our attention. Regardless of how he is speaking. We need to learn to attend to what he has to say. Hearing God is not focus of this book. If you would like a helpful discourse on this topic, I encourage you to read Dallas Willard’s Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.
I have been hearing God’s voice for several years; that was not new to me. However, I learned that I didn’t really know him, and I didn’t really allow him to know me. I needed to learn important truths about who he is and who I am.
Take a companion on your journey.
My journey of discovery was precipitated by spiritual direction and the practices of meditation and contemplative prayer. While many tools and disciplines can lead one to a fuller and deeper experience of God, meeting regularly with a Christian spiritual director is enormously helpful. With God all things are possible, but a journey to experience him is much improved and generally more fruitful when you have a fellow traveler in the form of a spiritual director. For me, seeking spiritual direction was pivotal and seminal.
Whether you seek the accompaniment of a director, another trusted companion, or choose to travel on your own, my prayer is that you will be inspired to make the effort to know and be known and take the risk to experience the Lord in all his goodness and allow yourself to plunge into the endless depths of his love for you. It is a gateway to the new, full, true life you are meant to have.
I am not a theologian.
Finally, a word on theology. I have great respect for good theology and for those who have studied long and hard to be theologians. I do not pretend to have theological expertise and have not tried to align my experiences with any particular theological viewpoint. In particular, my experience of the Trinity may not align with your theology of the Trinity. Do not let that trip you up. God showed me what I needed to see and taught me what I needed to know to get past the things that impeded my relationship with him and to learn the lessons I needed. His goal was not to give me a tidy theology. If some point of theology causes you to discount the reality of my experience, set it aside, and later, when you are done reading for a while, spend some time with the Lord and allow him to resolve (or not!) the discordance for you.
4 thoughts on “Workshop Chapter 1: Introduction”
Love this chapter! I think the idea of God showing us portions of truth is so true. Theology degrees are a human invention. Most of the time, people just read like crazy. 🙂
A wise man told me once that when scoring baseball games, only keep track of the things that interest you. I find that true with the studies I have done about the Trinity and you wisely stated the same message. Important though is knowing when to change those interests and reach deeper. Thanks for showing me that so that I may learn more of those things that do interest me
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