Monday, October 13, 2008

His Three Words

I’ve been meaning to chase down and capture the best words for my weekend in Colorado, but it’s been difficult. I’ve been practicing lines and words all week hoping to paint the perfect picture.

The best I can do will probably be a series of narratives or thoughts that come to me as I pore over my experiences as I try to continue to feel the weight of that weekend.
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I was angry. If I’m honest, I was angry with God.

There were 400 men here, telling what seemed to be intimate experiences with God, but to me they were nothing more than folklore or family legend.

Where was my story? Where was my definitive moment when God became bigger than theories or theology or a fanciful message? I know God exists but for as long as I can remember, I’ve known and loved a silent God. I read stories about him, about his son, about his love. And it’s perfect. I know it’s perfect.

There were 400 men here and when it was silent you could hear each one of them weeping. Each of them revisiting stories of hurt; stories of beauty and inspiration. Each of them streaming tears of breakthrough and recovery and renewal.

Powerful isn’t the right word. It was just power.

It was beautiful and it was God and I was still angry.

At the end of one of Eldredge’s lectures, he asked us, like he had done a few times before, to leave the building in a “covenant of silence.” Our posture of solemnity and introspection and prayer was to be kept in silence; he asked us to pray, to talk to God, to cry if necessary, and ask him to speak to us.

So we left in silence, each one of us red-eyed and expectant. We left no room for machismo.

I climbed the side of a hill looking for a vista. If I’m honest, I hoped that soaking in God’s beauty at the paramount of one of the Colorado Rockies would bring me closer to him. I took a “Tower of Babel” approach (Worked for them right?)

After a few minutes I found a rock suitable for asking God the tough questions. It was big and smooth and very sit-able, facing away from the wind with a view of the lowering sun and flamboyant yellow Aspens.

So I dove in. I was the interrogator; God was sitting handcuffed and speechless across from me. If there was a swinging light above us, I would have shone it in his face and yelled at him.

“Where have you been the past 25 years?” I’d shout.

“I’ve been waiting.” I’d continue. “You know I’ve been waiting and I’ve been listening and now, I’ve been lying. Each year deepens our crevasse, and each year you get harder to fake. Now, where are you?”

Nothing. I heard nothing. The wind rushed through the trees behind me, and I halfway wanted it to be the voice of God himself. “But God was not in the wind” crept in the familiar 1 Kings passage. God was indeed not in the wind. And if I’m honest, I wondered if he was in my heart either.

My demanding turned into pleading, I was begging God for affirmation now.

“God, I don’t need to hear your voice, I’ve gotten this far without it,” I said “if you won’t tell me about yourself, then tell me about me. Tell me about me. Give me my new name God, and I’ll be that new name. I’ve done it alone for so long, if you so desperately want to be with us, why don’t you speak to us? Seems to be the worst way to do things.”

Like a man possessed, lines of long-memorized scripture filled my head. They overlapped each other, competed for prominence, competed for my attention.

“Draw near to me, and I’ll draw near to you”
“A still-small-voice”
“Our God, who is mighty to save”

They swirled between my ears, drowning my own inner-voice as I dismissed them as a reflex of self-medication learned through years of Christian institutionalization.

My doubt overcame me, and instantly I turned on God. My thoughts turned to betrayal, of negligence.

Of abandonment.

Why haven’t I felt validated? Why have I never felt strong enough to rescue a woman? What is it that keeps me questioning my own strength and purpose?

“God,” I asked,” what do you want from me?”

“What is my name?”

I want so badly to feel the strength that felled Goliath, the same strength that empowered Samson, the same spirit that carried Paul through years of imprisonment.

I heard the bell announcing the evening’s lecture and left hearing nothing at the mountaintop.

My shoulders had never felt lower, my face, like my spirit, was worn and tired and resigned. I walked back to the conference center and saw one of my bunkmates, a 45 year- old winery-owner with whom I’ve shared a car-ride, a few topical conversations but little else. He motions to me and I walk over to him.

“I spent the entire time praying for you.” He said. “I don’t know why, and I don’t understand it, but I’ve never heard God’s voice that clearly before. These three words came to me, throw them away or take them in, but understand that I’ve never had an experience with God like that before; I prayed for you the entire time.”

I took his folded post-it note and put it in my pocket, saving myself the awkwardness of having to let him know God doesn’t speak to guys like me, that I was too weak for God to use.”

Mick walked away.

His note read:

Mighty.
Valor.
Friend.

14 comments:

Tyler Bianco said...

WOW.
just...wow.
i am SO blessed by your real-ness

Dave Groenenboom said...

Hey Sean,

That is a great post. I love your ability to perceive the tension and then communicate its raw presence. Interesting that an experience of solitude turns out saying something about relationship, although I am not sure where that takes us in this instance.

Thanks mate,

Dave G, Brisbane, Australia

julsie said...

I agree with tyler.
Wow.
It's nice to read honesty. Especially when you find yourself in the story, relating; and yet completely experiencing something totally different.

THE BEAR said...

Sean. You have become a part of something way bigger than yourself. Your life is being used to help men become men of God. This is huge. I believe.

The Passerby said...

Philemon 4 (kjv).

Just so you know, Friend.

mrs. bear said...

Thank you for sharing that. Seriously.

Shredward said...

Write a book, DO IT.

Seriously though, thank you for sharing this. We share a common struggle man, it's harsh to say the least. I'm just sooooo stoked for you though man, because experiencing what you did is beyond enriching. There isn't a thing in the world that hands out hope like God does and your story just gets me pumped on that fact. GOD IS AMAZING!

shannon said...

What a blessing, Sean.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. Your sincere candor makes this beautiful.

God has given you a gift.

"What you're after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life." Psalm 51:6

Holly said...

I came to tears reading that... that IS a real experience with God. I hope you catch that, even the hard half of it.

Kyle Rocks Hard said...

Thank you brother. Your an amazing example for everyone. I feel genuinely bad for every single person who doesn't have you as a big brother. Its things like this that shape me into the man i want to be.
Thank youuu

holly elaine said...

I don't think you should forget this. It seems a little impossible right now, but time has a way of washing some of the impact away. Sometimes I think God is silent just so he can hear us yell.

Derek Hickman said...

praise God! He gets all the glory . . .

jmosizzle said...

psalm 46/47