The Dying Grounds

Whaline picture in the arctic

When I was little, I remember watching a movie where a mythical place was sought after  in which whales would go to die. It turned out to be in some valley in the arctic neatly tucked away from any but the most determined pioneer.   This location was appropriately named the dying grounds.  That image was always mystical and strange to me, a set place where these large majestic animals would pass into the next world tucked away from anyone or anything else.  Our culture deals so poorly with death and our lack of engagement with the subject at any level is a telltale sign of our failure to come to terms with it.  Over the past six years, I believe I’ve experienced my own “dying grounds” from which I’m only starting to recover.  For me, that place was Denver. 

We moved to Denver from Cincinnati with a clear call from God and a sense that He was bringing us to something new and exciting.  I remember early on in my time in seminary when my friend Tim and I drove down to the Glen in Colorado Springs to do our day alone with God for our spiritual formation class.  During my time praying I wrote down something I felt God was telling me, he told me he was going to take me through something difficult.  In some ways, I chalked it up to the possibility that I simply hadn’t heard God right.  I mean, when does God tell you he’s going to make your life hard.  I wish I had payed more attention to this warning from the Lord as the next several years were some of the most difficult times in my life. 

Seminary was a good experience for me in some ways and in other ways it was horrible.  I learned so much and got to sit at the feet of some amazing scholars and teachers.  I learned an immense amount from my friends who came from so many different perspectives.  Mostly, however, I learned about all my faults.  God put me through the sive and sifted out all the areas of my life that had gone unnoticed on my part and took me through some very difficult experiences to highlight these things.  For my tendency to want to please those in authority above me, I allowed myself to be put in a situation where I was taken advantage of.  For trying to focus on ministry as a value, I allowed myself to pass as a less than stellar student.  For dreaming of being a postmodern savy minister I experienced disappointment and loss in ministry.  Most of all, I lost my heart.  I let the worries of this world overwhelm as if I had been buried by a deep dark ocean of despair in which there was no bottom.  There’s nothing more unsettling than experiencing disappointment with God when one is trying to work in a religious environment and minister the Gospel.  Its feels almost hypocritical to write letters about your ministry and its successes without the opportunity to share about your struggles worrying that any sign of failure will promptly result in a lack of funding for your minsitry.  These experiences were difficult and they challenged some of my most basic assumptions, assumptions about naively trusting religious mentors and leaders, the value I place on myself in relation to my accomplishments and my tendency to be my own worst critic. 

I have heard a word for the Lord from many a friend and counselor that God loves  me and I need to be tender with myself.  I have acknowledged those things as accurate but for some reason I have a hard time accepting that God could really love me.  Sometimes I believe that if I could just live my life good enough, my friends would see how God is faithful and that we can live how he calls us to.  I guess in trying to do that, I have taken on my own shoulders God’s own job.  I can only be who I am and God is on the hook for how he’s working in other’s lives.  In my attempts to be perfect, I’m actually robbing people of seeing life as it truly is lived, difficult.  Yet, God is faithful in the difficulties.  When I look at the Bible, it ain’t a pretty picture, but thats the point.  People elevate the Word of God to some ideal form of platonic categories when really it reveals just how messed up life is.  The only saving grace is that God hasn’t given up on us.  I think  that’s my take away from all this dying talk.  You may be struggling, you may have given up on God but God is tenacious in His pursuits.  God hasn’t given up on me.  I just need to let myself acknowledge that fact.  It certainly is harder than it sounds.  Only now am I seeing the fruit born out of those lonely challenging times in Denver.   Some things have to be experienced to truly be understood.  Sometimes I wish that wasn’t true, but man is it the truth. On the horizon I see glimmers of hope and I plan on continuing down the long windy path God has taken me along but for now just resting in the reality of God’s love for me is a truth I still find difficult to square with emotionally.  I can only rest in the fact that God hasn’t given up on me and for now, thats good enuf.

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 1:05 am  Comments (2)