Posted in focus on faith

One Good Reason…

Finding Tim Knapp was akin to finding a child I had given up at birth decades ago. I felt an uncanny level of connection when we met, via email, five years ago. Tim’s mother had seen me in an interview on 100 Huntley St. in which I talked about my lengthy season of spiritual dryness. She emailed me with a link to her son Tim’s blog.

When I finally clicked in, I found a soul mate. A fellow struggler. An overcomer. A gutsy, honest, back-from-the-grave Christ follower who didn’t have it all figured out. Yet. Or ever. Like me, he was tired of glibness, formulas and pat answers. But he wasn’t tired of Jesus.

I emailed Tim, introduced myself and said, keep writing! After you read Tim’s soon-to-be released book Dry Bones: a crisis of faith, you’ll understand why.

Tim got off to a great start in life. When he was a teen, he had to be up early to deliver newspapers. “Every morning as I crept down the hall before sunrise, I would find my father on his knees. With elbows on the couch and his face buried in his hands, he physically and spiritually pressed into a place of communion with the Lord. His consistent pursuit of the Father modeled for me a life of grateful surrender. I didn’t realize it at the time but each morning as I tiptoed past my kneeling father a little bit of Jesus rubbed off on me.”

But, as we all know, many runners start the race and only one takes home the prize. Typically we read the winner’s books and gobble up their secret(s) in three keys or seven habits or 12 steps or 50 ways and believe them when they assure us, “if I can win, you can too!”

The truth is a few of us “can” but lots of us “can’t”, not to mention those of us who won’t even try because we already tried and failed and are dragging along too much baggage, or barricaded behind walls of self protection, or paralyzed by fear.

So what about the rest of us? The ones who start the race and come in third or 25th or dead last? The ones who stumble and fall and are not able to get up and continue running? What we need is one good reason to keep running. We know the odds are against us so we need encouragement to stay the course, or to get back up, rejoin the race, and finish well.

Dry Bones holds that one good reason and that encouragement. A runner who was sidelined by some unfamiliar terrain, tripped up by fellow runners he thought were on the same team, and flattened by unexpected storms writes it. Thanks to a pursuing God, a loving family that never lost faith in him, and fellow runners who refused to leave him in the ditch, Tim found one good reason to get back on track.

“Before my journey into disillusionment my lifelong desire was to be used of God in ministry. That’s was my hunger, my heart’s cry. And I won’t lie…I wanted to be the guy up front. I wanted to be a ‘man of faith and power’ that everybody looks to with wonder and respect. I wanted to be a powerful leader who slayed giants and commanded armies. I wanted to be a David. God had other ideas.”

Tim reveals that his journey through wilderness had a refining, redemptive, and re-directing purpose. He discovered that while he tried, and failed, to become a David, God was calling him to be a Jonathan. That was his real purpose. That was his one good reason. His role as a Jonathan is to find disillusioned “Davids” and help restore them.

The world could use a lot more Jonathans! I have a few Jonathans in my life and without them, I could not have accomplished anything. They pray, they encourage, they come alongside when needed, they love, they support, they meet me when I am in hiding and lead me out, they are a friend in good times and bad, they have influence and put in a good word for me, and so much more.

Dry Bones is the best book I have ever read on spiritual wilderness, including mine. It has forehead slapping insights that made we wish I had thought of that, the main one being Tim’s unpacking of the true meaning of disillusionment. He starts by differentiating between disillusionment and discouragement. As a 10-year veteran of spiritual wilderness (while married to a minister) I greatly appreciated this differentiation. “Disillusionment is something deeper. Stronger. More sinister. [It] does not let up. It does not yield to reason and it does not respond to social media memes. Disillusionment cannot be outwaited or outwilled.” Amen!

Tim discovered three precursors to disillusionment, two of which I had never thought of: hunger, illusionment, and adversity. Hunger is “a deeply rooted desire for purpose and significance.” Yup! I certainly had that! Adversity is “the experience of a setback.” Oh yeah! Been there, done that, still have the stretch marks. But illusionment? Besides the fact that it’s not a word in the English lexicon, what is that exactly? Are you saying God was, is, an illusion?

Tim’s dissection of the word disillusioned holds profound insights. It means “to be dis-illusioned, to be delivered from an illusion.” Tim explains that in order for one to be delivered from an illusion, one first has to have an illusion. What is an illusion? In short, it is a lie. “God is not the illusion people fall for…. It is in the development of our understanding about God and ourselves that illusions begin to form.” In other words it is not God that is the lie but it is my understanding of Him and His ways that is flawed.

Tim illustrates this concept with the very illusion (he calls them mirages) I once held so dearly; the illusion that knocked me out of the race and mired me in sand for many years: “If I serve God faithfully I will not suffer.” That was a lie (illusion) I believed, so when adversity struck and I suffered, I became disillusioned. “Help! I’ve lost my faith!” I cried to my pastor husband from my wilderness position. Speaking a powerful truth I did not understand for years, he was agreeing in principle with Tim Knapp when he replied, “You haven’t lost your faith, you’re finding it.” In other words, I needed to shake of the illusions and lies I believed and find the real God and base my life on His truth.

Tim is honest, transparent, and real. His writing is beautiful, words laser-focused to convey exact intent. Tim’s willingness to share his failures, fears, and flaws make him, his God, and His truth so accessible to all of us, not just the “best” runners. His humility sprinkled with humour will keep you reading and hi-liting and tweeting and sharing. Maybe, like I did, you will discover your inner Jonathan, and the one good reason you needed to get you going again.

(the above excerpt is the Foreword I was honoured to write for Tim’s upcoming book Dry Bones.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in focus on faith

Four hard questions about spiritual dryness

Openness begets openness. I have permission to share the following from a pastor’s wife who came through a season of spiritual dryness. She asks four questions I need help answering. Maybe you can help? (my comments are sprinkled throughout)

I read your blog this morning on Facebook and had to take a moment to write to you. I love how transparent your are! You are never afraid (oh yes I am! But thanks.) to tell us where you are, I know there was a season where that was not the case, but I love that now you are so open. I too wish that all women in ministry could also be an open book.

Ministry can be so discouraging and lonely. It is so easy to hear how things are going in other churches and to then question, why isn’t my church like that? We get so caught up in what we think is success.

I have been in that same place (people in ministry keeping the conspiracy of silence concerning their struggles), the place where I so hoped no one saw me. I hoped that my clothing would blend in with the wallpaper and that no one would even know I was there. I wanted to rejoice with my friends over their successes, baptisms, number of members, people growing in their walk with the Lord.

I so wanted to be happy but oh I was struggling.

asked God why couldn’t my church be the same? Why couldn’t we be baptizing hundreds of new believers? Or why were we here struggling in this little church plant? Why couldn’t my husband be called to pastor a mega church? All of those things ran through my mind.

At times I wanted to get up on a chair and just scream!!! Other times I just wanted to fade away into the woodwork. That time was so dark and lonely.

God did carry me through that dark time and has led me to a place where I am happy again. (YES!) I am finding new energy for ministry. I am excited to see what new door God will open this week and I am spending more time in prayer seeking that time with Him. I look forward to seeing my church family and I rejoice with them in their victories!

I praise God that He did not let me go, that he led me through the dark time and back into His light! I know I will have other seasons where I feel alone, however, having come through this dark season I know God will be there too.

(Okay, here are the first two questions…) I wanted to write to you because in my darkest moments I felt that I could tell no one! I felt that no one could ever understand just how I felt. Reading your book and now your blog reminds me that other’s feel just the same. My question is how do we provide a safe place for them? How do we encourage those who feel lost and alone?

I remember attending [a conference for ministry couples] when I was at my very lowest and while it was so good to get away from home, away from those lost and lonely feelings, it was also so very difficult. I did not seem to find the people who might feel just like me. (this makes my heart ache) All I heard was how terrific everyone else was doing. All I heard was how “successful” they were.

(And here are the second two questions…) I know now that I was not in a place where I could recognize another person’s pain. I had built up too many walls and could not see over them. So how then do I help others who are there? What can we do to provide that safe place? What can we do to allow for transparency without any judgement?

I wish I had the answer.

(And yet, you do have the answer, or at least part of it, right here…) I guess what I am saying is that we need to continue to be sensitive to those who are struggling. If I could help another church planter’s wife or pastor’s wife through a lonely season then all of my struggles would be so worth it!

Thanks for all you do! You inspire me to keep on! (And you do the same for me!)

How would you answer these 4 questions?

  1. How do we provide a safe place for them (spiritual wanderers)?
  2. How do we encourage those who feel lost and alone?
  3. How then do I help others who are there (in spiritual wilderness)?
  4. What can we do to allow for transparency without any judgement?

Help me out with your feedback here or on Facebook. Answer one or more from your experience or wisdom and watch for future blogs with your answers compiled.