Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Spirit Had ACL Surgery

The question of how spiritual growth happens is a very compelling to me. I am trying to wrestle with the question for myself, and figure it out as I go along in my writing. I hope you will share your feedback!

I believe in the idea that as a Christian person, it is a good idea for me to read and study the Bible and pray. In fact, I love doing those things! Disciplines cause growth, right? And yes, I would love to grow. Yet when I honestly examine my crazy, out-of-control schedule and the impact aforementioned lack of control has on my psyche, I realize that I really don’t a) study the Bible or b) pray much at all anymore.

Eleven years of age seemed to be the pinnacle of practicing spiritual disciplines in my life. At that time, I was a reader, studier, pray-er, and journal-er. I would definitely say I got a lot out of those disciplines, and I enjoyed them. I could FEEL the growing. I felt “close” to God. Perhaps it was my innocence, but those were certainly “times of sweet refreshing,” and I miss that.

At first I thought that the problem was just the lack of disciplines at all, so I’m trying to pick those up again. Not out of guilt, but out of desire. Sometimes out of desperation, piled on top of the desire. 

Maybe I’m rusty, or maybe this year and all its joy and tragedy has left me completely emotionally drained, but I just don’t feel the spiritual life that I remember feeling in the past when I would approach these disciplines. I have felt this way on and off over a period of years, and I think that’s why ultimately I let my routine fall by the way-side – it wasn’t having the same impact, or I wasn’t feeling the right feelings in response to what I was doing, and that sense of deadness scared me so I just decided to shut it down. 

Rather than dealing with my sense of spiritual deadness, I stopped engaging in the activities that were forcing me to confront it.

Lately, I have been bombarded with messages of Grace. Our pastor is preaching a sermon series on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and he’s talked much about grace. I participated in the Living Proof Live Simulcast this past Saturday, and Beth Moore’s entire teaching was about grace. Ann Voskamp writes about applying grace to ourselves in everyday life, pretty much nonstop. 

I think part of what made me feel good about my spiritual disciplines in the past, was the feeling that I was a good little girl for doing what I was doing – I felt good doing it all because it made me feel good about myself. Once that delusion is dissolved in the wake of grace, what is left?
I sit down at the Bible to start reading, and it sort of feels like chewing on rocks. I’m not getting anywhere. I’m a churched girl, I’ve read this book all my life, and yet somehow the passages seem disconnected from me and over my head. It’s like watching RGIII try to play football this season – it’s bewildering because we all know he knows what he’s doing, but somehow, going through the motions isn’t getting results. At least, not yet. 

But I am tired of spiritually living vicariously through spiritual teachers, when I know that I have the tools that I need right in front of me. I don’t want to do what I’ve done so many times in the past, and walk away from the pieces when the puzzle gets too frustrating. I believe that the Word is Life, and that Jesus left me His Spirit that I might HAVE life, and have it abundantly. 

Today I am frustrated trying to engage with Scripture. But I will keep it at it, as authentically as possible. I would love to hear from others if you’ve ever felt this way before, and what did you do about it?


Bw Smith said...

You mean what am I doing about it?

Staying engaged, learning, etc. is an ongoing battle for me – I am so easily distracted. Too often.

This week I am going to be rejoining a ladies Bible study – and we are doing Exodus. The temptation is to skip -- “been there, done the flannel graph.”

But, I believe these are interesting times – post-Christian era – that it is. And I believe the times may get testier. What do I need to live through uncertain times, and be useful? That’s why I liked Ecclesiastes.

Moreover, Doug’s brother-in-law made a profession of faith in Christ – he is 87, and of sound mind. He is reading the Gospel of John -- and I wonder if my rereading the Gospel, imagining it is the first time – how that would refresh my faith?

So – I am approaching Exodus, thinking what it must have been like for an “old” woman to leave Egypt and not get to the Promised Land.

Knowing what Scripture says – and does not say – is so important – but sometimes I feel like the Israelites: Manna again?

Sydney McFearless said...

I appreciate you sharing this. It seems it is a battle, maybe one we continually fight rather than something I should expect to fully master .... by tomorrow, say.

I am intrigued by your point about understanding the times. Understanding what we are / I am up against in this day and age as Christians is certainly motivating and enlightens the need for the spiritual disciplines.

There is a theme in what you said about John and Exodus -- it is imagination. This is exciting! The thought of bringing our imagination to the study of Scripture is profound. Not in the sense of misinterpretation, but in the sense of renewed life application. This is fantastic.

Thank you so much for sharing your comment!! I am learning from others on this, and beginning to believe that spiritual growth comes much stronger in community, interacting with believers (fellowship?).

Dana said...

"Manna again?" Exactly! I found myself in a place like the one you describe, Sydney. In my case God used a season of bereavement to prepare my heart to go deeper with Him. And you are so right about the community of believers being integral to spiritual growth.

There are many thoughts and opinions about BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), and I am not trying to advertise it, but it would be impossible for me to describe what God has done in me over recent years without mentioning it. Though I had enjoyed many Bible studies throughout my adult life, the specific format of the BSF studies is exactly what God knew I need: 1) Daily reading and answering questions about the passage, 2) Discussing answers in a small group (*always* learning vital truth from what others saw in the passage), 3) Hearing a lecture about the passage I have studied and discussed, 4) Reading commentary on the passage, and 5) Applying at least ONE thing God has shown me from the passage (this last is not a stated part of the BSF "method," but it is a running theme throughout all of their materials, and it is indispensable). This approach just resonates mightily in my spirit. By the time we finished studying the Gospel of John, I felt as if I had been there, in first century Palestine, following Jesus around those dusty roads...

In the past year I have seen over and over and over again how God will use exactly what I am studying from His Word to speak to me precisely where I am in my everyday life. And this is the key. Because His Word is not history, nor a rule book, nor any other academic tome. It is Life. It is for living.

Michelle said...

I 100% agree with your mom! I can't talk about my life in the last 2 years without mentioning bsf,. It has truly transformed me, kept me accountable and made the Bible alive. I think it takes a little while to feel this way about it- for me it took about 2 years before I started saying it had changed my life. I tend to look at life with more of an eternal perspective now and am anxious for the return of Christ. I also did a lot of fasting this past year (usually just a one day fast, but one time I did it for 3 days), and I can't tell you how much closer I felt to the Lord during this time. Obviously, you can't do that while pregnant or nursing, so I was thankful to have a period of time where I was able to fast. (I'm missing it right now since I'm pregnant). Where it was helpful was any time I would get hungry, I would just start praying for myself, others, or ask the Lord to help me get over the hunger. It was a constant reminder to myself to be talking to the Lord all day. I've learned, in general to turn my thoughts into prayers and it has brought me closer to Him. I think a lot of people feel exactly the same way for you, as I know I felt that way for a long time, and still have slumps where I feel like this. Thanks for this post!

Dana said...

"I've learned...to turn my thought into prayers..." SO true, Michelle!! This is a great discipline!

Sydney McFearless said...

Thank you, and don't they have seminars in hermeneutics to help with individual Bible study? This would have been 9 years ago that I attended, but I remember going to something like that and thinking it was helpful at the time.

Sydney McFearless said...

It is really intriguing that you say it was a process of time that changed you. I think this is a vital piece of the process -- an extended commitment and then with consistency the change started happening.

I love what you shared about growing to miss fasting! That is inspiring that you have learned to practice that discipline! Thanks for being willing to share your personal experience!!