I thought about titling this “absolute humility,” but it just doesn’t seem to communicate the positivity of the message I’m trying to communicate. I remember my first year of marriage being like that of so many other couples’ – wretched. Thanks to God’s grace and my faithful wife, we’ve made it through. And forgotten most of the pain. Learned from it? Absolutely. Same mistakes and sin? Sure, but we’re moving along the sanctification process in becoming the followers of Jesus and husband and wife God wants us to be. The last couple years have been quite the journey much like marriage.
The ups and downs of life are actually the journey God wants us to go through. The process is all part of growing closer to Him and bringing others along to Him. Having been diagnosed bipolar for a season in my recent journey was humiliating. It made sense that I was at the time, but discovered it was far more situational than mental. Anxiety? A bunch. Depression? Pretty bad. And so I move forward in God’s process through me knowing those are two thorns to be wary of and continue to treat, pray through, learn about and guard against. But bipolar? No – maybe a bit of a mood disorder, but not as extreme as once diagnosed. My manias have been nearly nil since seeing a new doctor and working with such a godly, understanding and even fun man. And the “manias” of last year are totally tempered. Maybe it has all been a result of the meds, maybe the Holy Spirit or maybe just getting out of the difficult situation in which I found myself. I imagine all three – in fact, the middle one impacting the other two.
Imagine you hurt your forearm really bad and you go to the hospital and they don’t xray it, but just ask how you feel. You tell them where it hurts, right near your wrist. They decide you need a cast and just to make sure it wasn’t just the forearm they put a cast from your fingertips to your shoulder for 4 weeks. When you go in to take the cast off you talk about some of the pain you continue to experience and they then decide to put pins in your arm – again without an X-ray. Your job involves quite a bit of use of your arm, so you decide to take a break from using it so much. The result? Hard to tell with the pins in and with your arm in a sling. But you stop using it.
So then you go to a new doctor and he assesses the situation, condition and your arm’s history – and takes x-rays. He discovers a repeated pattern of sprains in your wrist and decides to keep you in the sling and keep the pins in, but put you down to a brace. After coming in weeks later, your wrist feeling far less painful. Knowing that sometimes those injuries don’t go away, he removes the sling and checks back in a few weeks. At this point, you have the brace removed as well, but he decides to keep the pins in until much later on. They might somehow be helping your arm and it doesn’t make sense to go in and change things that significantly. But you continue to stop using it as you were in the beginning of the whole problem. The diagnosis? Ligament damage, a break and further damage to the wrist. Healable? Yes. Continued attention to it? Yes.
That’s exactly what my journey was like in 2011. It felt like I had no x-ray, surgery, was over prescribed and not assessed properly. Thanks to a new doctor I’m on less meds than I’ve been on in over a year with far less dosage than I was and my arm seems “healed.”. I still need to be careful with it, protect it, ice it and take some pain killers to combat its abnormality. And the pins do remain. But with the right treatment and healthier analysis, it just makes sense. Healing is a heck of a lot more possible. But I need to look deeply into it with the help of others.
It’s the same with any physical abnormality. But it also applies to our spiritual life. We need to look deeper. And oh, has God been pointing his scope inside me recently. It’s pretty nasty in there, but God highlights where good growth is taking place But why? Why couldn’t I just have had this right treatment worked last year? I think the position where I had to “use my arm” just wasn’t healthy, regardless of the thorough investigation of X-rays, MRIs and more. I needed to do more than just put a band aid on my brain, but thoroughly discover how, where, when and what God wants of me. Would I trade it? I think I’d only trade some of my behavior and sins. While my thoughts seemed uncontrollable at times, I needed the right kind of help – and the help I was getting (pins, over-casting, sling-wearing, etc.) was only making things worse. And I needed to stop overusing it. It was as if I was going out to play tennis in a cast, pins and sling.
In my current discoveries and journey, the last few weeks have thankfully become a huge turning point. We all look back to life and wonder how and why God is doing what he is doing. We look for our passions and seek to use our gifts in the best way possible; in a way we desire to live for and in a way that helps people. It was three weeks ago Sherry and I sat at our kitchen table while the kids were at school and discussed if it was time to begin pursuing something that might utilize my gifts and be something I am passionate about. We talked about my gifts of teaching, administration, ministry, and desire to no longer serve high school or jr. high students but adults. What made the most sense was higher in education. Do I pursue a PhD? Too expensive and not yet. So what? Where do I look? I didn’t think I was ready to serve at that level or even be back in a ministry capacity because of the healing I knew I was experiencing and needed to go through. I’ve felt absolutely humbled in this whole process and continue to be every step of the way. And I hope I remain at this low, yet blessed; near tearful, yet excited state.
Back to the marriage comparison. In the year 2000 I promised myself I would not date. I didn’t want to fall in to the same pain I was in the year before when my engagement was broken off. I was committed not to date. And honestly, I don’t think I did. After experiencing near-death experiences, lengthy emails and conversations from hundreds of miles away and a lot of putting pieces together, I got married on the last day of that year. Dated? Not sure, but I’m glad we are now. I love my wife and she loves me more than ever & God began it in the midst of a lot of pain, some confusion and clear guidance.
Similarly, I committed to not serving in church ministry for a year, but after Sherry and my discussion it just seemed as if that was where I fit. Teaching, organizing, leading. Not 60 hours later the most amazing thing happened. Someone approached Sherry to ask about my interest in a particular job at her school (Western Seminary). I had heard about it, but was discouraged because I applied for a much less significant position there and was turned down.
As I discovered more about what the position was about, it was eerie how our conversation that Wednesday morning was exactly what this position was geared towards. Leadership, communication, administration. In Christian higher education. Seriously? At first I was a bit tempered because of the near 50+ applications and numerous high hopes I’ve experienced this year. But this one was hard to be tempered about because it just seemed right.
After three interviews I was offered the position under certain conditions. The most important was that I pray, investigate and really seek God over the next 24 hours. I immediately began fasting and God absolutely broke me down to exactly where I needed to be. Once Western told me to pray Sherry wanted to announce it to the world – we got the job! – she was so jazzed! But I was quite tempered. I really wanted to be open to God telling me no. A beautiful disaster I was. It wasn’t 5 hours later when I was broken similarly to the point where I was in 2000 when I knew I had to move to California. I wish I could put into words the felling, thoughts, sense and countenance I had. I was clearly humbled. Absolutely humbled. I don’t mean degraded or feeling like nothing, but realizing who I am as a child, sinner, husband, dad and now in the position to serve others where I get to. It was like when we were led to being married where you just know this is what you are supposed to do.
After confirming with Western, my absolute humility turned into being excitedly humble. It continues today, not 48 hours later, with tears welled up in my eyes and a big smile on my face. And most importantly it’s because finally my identity is in Christ – I am his. Following that I am what I realized in my humility as I mentioned in the paragraph previously. I’m not a pastor. I’m not a director. I am Christ’s. I belong to Jesus. He allows me to serve and enjoy the opportunities I get to, but I am His.
Sherry and I continue to marvel at God’s hand in all of this. The blessings pouring out from it all are more than I can share here. You’ll have to ask one of us. I just can’t take my mind off God and Who He is. It’s not about the situations or circumstances, but they certainly help point to Him, whether in trouble or joy. But today, I’m humbled. Broken down yet blessed. Hurting yet healed. Numb yet excited. Absolute humility. I don’t think I’d rather anything else.
Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.