Ahhhh…. rain. I stood outside this morning in the rain, catching the first spatterings from the sky with unconcealed joy. I love the rain. It’s probably because we don’t get much here (we average 7.48″/year, according to the InterWebs). Perhaps if we had a Portland-esque climate I’d feel differently (42″/year!) But I digress.
When it rains, I feel like my soul is being watered; it’s a tangible reminder to me of God’s grace & His care… & when I stand in the rain, I often pray, asking, “God, water the parts of me that are dry & crusty, the places that need Your life & Your touch.” And I feel like He does.
About a year ago, I felt like I experienced a “dark night of the soul” aka a place that Dallas Willard referred to as something that “tests one’s joyful confidence in God“. There were many reasons for this including challenging family circumstances, a roller-coaster of incapacitating anxiety/panic attacks, depression, & the loss/deterioration of a few close friendships. I slept a lot & didn’t eat well… (NOTE: I ate a lot, & my weight jumped… which led to most of my clothes not fitting… which led to more anxiety & crud.)
One day, I saw an invitation on social media from an acquaintance looking for guinea pigs (volunteers) to be a part of his spiritual direction “internship.” This involved a 1x/month Skype session with him for the purpose of discovering/rediscovering what God is saying, doing, & where He is leading. Considering the hole I was in, (& desperately wanted out of) I jumped at the invite. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Over the course of several months, I sensed my dark night (it was more like a dark quarter of a year,) dissipating, with the knowledge that, even when I hadn’t known it, God had been right there in the middle of it with me… And that He didn’t waste any of the pain, but actually turned it to be a source of fuel for bringing change in my life, physically, mentally, emotionally, & spiritually. And in the last 12 months, I’ve been able to track a turnaround in my life. Not an instant miracle, not a “BOOM! you’re healed” moment, but a gradual, (& lasting) shift in how I live, approach anxiety/adversity, what I give myself to, & most significantly, in my relationship with God. My spiritual director didn’t give advice, offer a plan for change, or really direct me to do anything. He merely asked lots of (Holy Spirit inspired) questions, listened to my answers, & asked more questions. And God used these reflections to give me a mirror into my own soul & to shine a bright light that eventually led me out of the dark night… (If you’d be interested in hearing more about this & my spiritual director, send me a note or let me know in the comments…)
This Saturday is our “Giver Team” dinner at Hillside – its a time where we acknowledge & appreciate all the “Givers” who give of their time & energy to serve at Hillside… In essence, its a celebration of the people who make Hillside what it is: a community of people, pursuing relationship with God & with each other, looking to find, understand, & follow God’s plan for their lives, & to help others in that pursuit. When it comes down to it, we believe in process… meaning, when we serve at church, we believe God uses that service (& our interactions with each other) as a source of helping us grow, in Him. Which ultimately means serving (being on the Giver Team) is a way to grow towards our goal: being mature, fully grown Christians… who live, love, & act like Christ would if He were walking in our shoes…. living, working, & playing where we live. I’m so thankful for this community of people – & I would love to be a part of this even if I wasn’t the pastor. And that is saying something.
More rain. I’m going outside.