Facing the canyon
As followers of Christ, our most productive times of growth come in the midst of challenge or struggle. We usually go kicking and screaming, but eventually see the brushstrokes of God. After a while growing Christians learn to embrace a bit of comfort-busting struggle. There’s an inevitable tension between who we are, and who we ARE in Christ. This is a normal, unavoidable, even healthy tension. I’ve come to believe that comfort is the enemy of progress. So, being a follower of Jesus should be humbling. Being a follower of Jesus should be challenging. Being a follower of Jesus should be transforming. Our walk with Christ should be hopeful, fulfilling, and adventurous, but not comfortable. The call of Christ is to “deny myself, take up my cross daily, and follow him”. Crisis can cultivate Christian character or create crippling confusion. Do you C what I mean? (Alliteration makes me happy!)
As a follower and pastor, I’ve seen this tension turn into spiritual paralysis for many people. It’s one thing to have a nagging awareness of the gap between what is and what should be but, what happens when that gap becomes a canyon? – insurmountable – disheartening – deflating. You’ll think that you’re a model Christian then some sermon series, book, or personal struggle will obliterate your illusion. For some time you’ve been thinking you had arrived a place of spiritual correctness, only to find that somehow you’re back where you started, still facing a canyon. You will have to wrestle with your spiritual journey, looking for moments of truth and revelation. You may even doubt everything…am I saved? Is God real? Have I been faking transformation? Is my Church the problem? How did I not know I was so far off target? Do I have what it takes?
The canyon experience is important. It’s a priceless gift! As long as you are a citizen of this broken world there will be a great chasm of sin, rebellion, apathy, and ignorance. The perfection and holiness of Christ is both in us and infinitely beyond our grasp. It’s hard not to focus on the distance traveled or yet to be traveled. You just have to take the next step and know that you are one step closer to the goal. Sometimes my spiritual journey can feel like a poorly documented vacation I took a long time ago. Like I have an old picture of a beautiful sunset, but now I’m not even sure if I was there. Satan would love to convince me that I was never there and my story is a lie that I invented to impress other travelers. But, I KNOW I was there! I remember being so weary, and how I plunged into the cool canyon river and how I saw a sunset the color of hope. It was the most refreshing sensation I’d ever felt. I did not make this up or exaggerate the impact. I was changed. I am changed. I know that I have carried on a real conversation with God for years. I know he hears me. I know he speaks to me. I’ve literally felt his touch. But the glimpses are brief enough and the sensations fleeting enough to leave plenty of room for faith and/or doubt. Nothing can invalidate my experience with God. The canyon we feel is the reality of God’s holiness, but not his nearness. His holiness is elusive to us, but his presence is not. He walks with us towards himself… He guides us through the canyon of his divine character. Don’t be surprised to find that you have barely begun to understand an infinite GOD. It makes sense that, even a million steps into infinity is like standing still. Don’t let the canyon be a discouragement, but rather be in awe and dive into the river. Document your adventure. Build little mile-markers along the way. Tell your stories with passion. Keep exploring, but know that you will not find the other side of his Holiness.
The point that I’m trying to make with all my metaphorical babbling is…
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Don’t get discouraged. Just keep training. Keep to the trail. Get solid spiritual counsel and encouragement. Whatever the next step is…take it! You are just fine as long as you don’t give up! Get down into that canyon. it’s ok…you are supposed to get lost!