Genuine religious experience is inevitably transforming. Religious knowledge either makes a difference to ones whole orientation or it is not genuine knowledge. In spiritual experience, the experience produces us.
Knowing transforms the knower.
~Theodore Runyon

Clarity?

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I’d hoped for clear direction as I finished my first semester in seminary.  At the end of the previous year, I’d left a lucrative career in electrical engineering assuming God might be calling me to ministry.  I’d followed the advice of my direct supervisor and taken a leave of absence so I could return to my position in case I was wrong.  I owed that employer an answer in about a month’s time, and I was really not any more clear than I was when I left.

For several years, I had enjoyed visiting Dinosaur Valley State Park down near Glen Rose, Texas.  I thought it was beautiful and peaceful – from the scenery to the sound of the Paluxy River flowing through the middle of the park.  I decided, since I was living only about an hour away, that I’d treat myself to a day of relaxation after completing that first, intense semester.  On top of that, I was hoping the day would clear my mind and help me to hear what God might be saying to me in terms of my call.

As long as I’d visited Dinosaur Valley, I had always wanted to cross the river and hike to the top of the tall hill on the other side.  I was certain that I would be granted a great view of the surrounding countryside.  So, I had decided before I left student housing that unless the river was too high, I WOULD go up that hill.

My shoes and socks got quite a bit wet as I worked my way across the river, but I did it.  The day was warm enough that I knew they’d dry out quickly.  Up the hill I went anticipating great photo opportunities at the top.  I was so focused on getting to the apex that I spent little time paying attention to what was along the trail, and I was getting out of breath as I neared the top.

Trees.  TREES!  Trees covering the top of that mini-mountain-wanna-be had not been a part of my dreams of what the view would be like.  Yes, I could see some surrounding countryside but only small snippets between the trees.  There was not great view, and I’d passed up other things to look at as I almost frantically strove to reach the top.   I looked for a rock to sit on and pout.

I found a rock, but the pouting never came.  I suddenly realized as I sat down that I had been looking for the “great view” of knowing exactly what God might be calling me to, and all I could see of that was small glimpses.

I thought about the journey of my first semester.  What had I missed in that very full few months?

As hard as it was, I enjoyed my studies and what I was studying – in fact the New Testament class was exhilarating!  I’d been working at my first position on a church staff at First United Methodist in Lewisville, Texas.  For the most part, I enjoyed what I was doing, and I knew people were appreciating what I was doing as many were affirming me.  And, as I considered my work, I felt that I was doing good things for the church.

Did I know exactly what God was calling me to in that instant?  No.  Yet, I felt that I could, with integrity, keep going forward with faith without knowing everything (isn’t that really what faith is about).  I knew I had made mistakes in my life in the past, and I knew that God journeyed with me, providing grace, to get me back on track.  I knew I could trust God to journey with me should I come to the realization that God was not calling me (so far I still feel called!).  It would be a little over 2 years (following a unit of CPEClinical Pastoral Education) before I received some clarity of my call: Christian Education as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church.  And yet, even then, the details of what and how that calling would play out were not clear.  These would only develop (and are continuing to develop) along the way.

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How many of us get lulled into inaction waiting for perfect clarity – waiting for the proverbial burning bush or neon sign of God telling us exactly what to do?  How many of us take lack of perfect clarity as God saying, “No?”  As an aside, how do we know it “ain’t the debil” (or ourselves) muddying the water and not God?  How many of us are afraid of what God might think (or do to us) if we act without perfect clarity?

Many will say, “The Bible says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ It also says, ‘Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength and mount up with wings as eagles.’ That tells me I need to wait until God tells me clearly.”

Didn’t Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) chastise the servant who did nothing?  It would have even been okay to simply put the money in a bank and earn interest.  The exact details of WHAT to do and HOW to do it were not stipulated.  Just doing SOMETHING was.  Yet, in that parable, fear led to inaction for that one servant.  Isn’t it interesting that Matthew follows this parable with the parable of the sheep (who DID for the least of these) and the goats (who didn’t even do the least for the least of these) – see Matthew 25:31-46?

Why should we fear a God who is full of grace – grace to forgive and grace to empower?  If we are truly seeking to love God, to love our neighbors (and enemies), and to love ourselves in our actions, won’t God forgive if we choose to do the wrong thing?  If we are loving God, our neighbors (and enemies), and ourselves in our actions, won’t God empower us to do the right thing?


2 Responses to “Clarity?”

  1. By Laura on Jun 28, 2012 | Reply

    Troy well said! I remember years ago, being at a place wondering where God was leading me. At the time I was involved in a production of Joseph’s Coat and there is a song called “Any Dream Will Do” Here I was contemplating a couple of different “projects” I wanted to be a part of at the church and wondering which one is God calling me to be a part of. The song helped me to realize there isn’t just one exact perfect thing God wants me to do but anything that glorifies him… is the perfect thing. It freed me to realize this… and I learned when you are about this business of sharing or serving God, that is his plan and when you are in that place…. you will see his will being played out!I might add grander and better than anything I could ever dream!

  2. By Ysabel de la Rosa on Jun 29, 2012 | Reply

    This is a fantastic post. Sometimes the only way to obtain that perfect clarity is to act with whatever it is you have / are at that moment.

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