During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.
It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.
The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.
Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul… He accomplished so much, he led and discipled so many people and he just kept pouring out, and kept talking about joy. I felt exhausted as I studied to teach, battling all kinds of distraction and frustration inside and out. Even with only twelve students (and six other staff) I have felt stretched beyond myself so often and I couldn’t quite see what it was that Paul knew which allowed him to be and do so much. I felt simultaneously convicted and a little angry. I thought, ‘whatever it is, I don’t have it.’
I’ve read that part of Paul’s endurance had to do with an achieving personality. You know those people who thrive on little sleep and full schedules? I have never been one of those people. Many of my close friends are very productive humans, but I’ve always been more comfortable contemplating the universe than writing a to-do list.
Last year, just when I thought I might be heading toward an enlarged production capacity, I ran face first into a mental/emotional concrete wall. It was some unwillingness mixed in with much ineptitude. The desire to change was real, but tiny compared to the wall.
Maybe partly because I work in a largely charismatic environment (and I’ve had people question whether I have the Holy Spirit), I have been (secretly) wondering if maybe Paul had some extra special portion of the Spirit that I had not received. I wasn’t sure how to get this extra helping, but I continued to carry around the nagging feeling that I was missing something.
What fell into place as I opened my mouth (and tried not to let my chin quiver) was; endurance like Paul had was not about some magical Holy Spirit dousing, it was/is about surrender, it’s about laying down my life.
This makes so much sense considering the real life example of the King we follow (Jesus!). It’s not like I forgot all that stuff about humility, I just didn’t see that there is strength on the other side of death.
It was an all in one conviction/encouragement. I realized that although God didn’t answer my question about why Paul was so awesome and I am not, he did begin leading me down a path toward deeper surrender. This has been both gentle and terrifying. Three parts Fatherly love and one part discipline is also, somehow completely discipline, but done with the purest love. At the moment I became aware of what a selfish git I’ve been, God also showed me how proud he is of me for loving him with my obedience.
I thought I was waiting for some big event, but the whole time God has been putting the chiseling tools into my hands and working on that stubborn wall himself. Said more plainly, there have been daily situations where the only two responses available to me are to either choose myself or choose the other person- whittling away at who is right, what is owed, what is ‘deserved,’ to discover what is loving.
I don’t think I have fully captured here what is happening inside, but hopefully you’ll be patient with me as I continue to look for the right words.
“See, I believe that if you were chosen, that if you were elected. I believe if God has anything for you, it’s not just to make you happy. God did not choose you and call you out of this world just to make you high. And God didn’t choose you and God didn’t call you out of this world just so you that could be pious. Because there are enough pious people and enough happy people in the world. What God called you for, and what God called you to is to make a difference in the world…
You’re gonna make a difference when you lay down your life, and in complete submission to God, choose to die with Him in service to other people.” ~Rich Mullins