I wonder how the Israelites felt when they finally arrived in the promised land. I wonder if they felt a sense of let down, perhaps a post-partum depression as they were born into the new land they’d awaited for decades. Perhaps, they realized that the journey wasn’t over and immediately turned to doing things their way. Perhaps, they were shocked to realize that life went on. Perhaps, they felt more lost in the promised land than they did in the wilderness.
We’ve been in Portland for just over four weeks. I’ve had a mixture of feelings: joy, contentment, anxiety, confusion, and fear. In July of 2010, I had a “Holy Spirit moment” during communion at a church in San Diego. For those who don’t speak Christianese, by “Holy Spirit moment” I mean a sense of clarity and connectedness to something beyond myself. In this moment I discerned a call to new church ministry here in Portland.
Following this clarifying Holy Spirit experience I worked through the official denominational discernment materials. I prayed and meditated. I took a spiritual gifts inventory. I talked to others who knew me. All of these experiences with others and materials prepared by others confirmed that I wasn’t crazy. (You may freely disagree. I agree hearing “voices” is a bit crazy.)
I’ve spent fourteen-months preparing to arrive and begin work in Portland toward starting something new. Most of the time, during this preparing to arrive, I have been tuned into the Spirit’s guiding. This included divesting ourselves of enough possessions that we have moved from a three-bedroom house to a studio apartment here in Portland. This included becoming a part of the healing community known as the Island Christian Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, followed by serving a small, rural church in Pennsylvania for six weeks.
During the wilderness months of preparation, it became clearer and clearer to me that Embracing (the name I’ve dubbed whatever it is I’m here to do) is not a new church or even a church in the sense that anyone typically thinks of church. So, while I’m here to be a part of co-creating a new something, to be a part of co-creating Embracing, it is not really church in the ways we’ve thought of it. Or perhaps, it is. You see I don’t know.
Screen shot of http://www.EmbracingPDX.org, a work
in process inviting others to be a part of radically
reimagining how to follow Jesus.
The result of my prayer, reflecting, reading, and interacting is that I describe this new church, this new something, as radically re-imagining how to follow Jesus. And I’m impatient. I want to know what I’m supposed to do. Isn’t do what we do best? I’ve done work. I’ve done school. I’ve done church. I’ve done and I’m done.
The Spirit is reminding me that I have things to learn and experience before the next moment of clarity. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you may recall I’m on a need to know basis with God and often God doesn’t think I need to know. God knows I want to know it all now.
Still, I wait. I feel guilty because I’m not creating. I’m just, dare I say it?, learning to be. I’m subbing at two early childhood programs that emphasize being with children rather than controlling children. So, just as I desire to allow children the opportunity to be and respond to where curiosity and the Spirit lures them, I am learning to allow myself the chance to be.
This is counter-cultural for sure. But wasn’t the One who breathed in and breathed out the Divine, the One who fully followed the luring of God, counter-cultural? Wasn’t Jesus counter-cultural? In a time when doing is the way of the land being is counter-cultural. An attitude of being present in each moment is the only way I know of hearing the Spirit.
So, I am struggling to embrace being as I go about getting to know my neighbors. As I seek to see the Divine in the beggar to whom I give a dollar on my morning walk, I am being. As I listen to the challenges of those around me, sometimes clandestinely, I am being. As I allow the Divine to work through me rather than programming, planning, controlling, doctrinizing, dogmatizing, and bureaucratizing God, I am being. Am I not also trusting the Spirit to guide and lure?
My fears of not being up to the task creating Embracing, come when I think this is my single-handed responsibility. It is true I am not up to the task. If I listen, however, if I follow the still, silent voice, Embracing, whatever it turns out to be, will come to fruition. I wonder what God has in mind?