I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about dark nights of the soul recently. Events in my life* have made me reflect on my own journey through it. In some ways, I think I’m still there. But I’m definitely more at peace with it now than I was even a year ago. Even though I blogged a lot about what I was thinking and feeling then, I haven’t ever blogged about what I learned necessarily. So here’s my “deep” blog that I promised. 🙂

1. The journey is not about being “right”.

I remember when we were having that book study about ‘A New Kind of Christian’ and I had been asking some questions but mostly listening. I felt I didn’t really have anything to add because I was *so* new to the conversation. I would occasionally ask questions and one time Shane made me answer a question 🙂 but other than that, I kept silent. After awhile of this, I asked a question that had been bugging me since the beginning. “How do we know that we are right?” I thought that this all sounded good and everything and somewhere in me it was resounding with my soul. But I was in such an upheaval and so distrustful of everything, I didn’t want to get onboard with this only to figure out a few years later that this was a load of BS too. The response that I got? It’s not about being right. It’s about learning and growing and being open to change and realizing that we don’t have God all figured out and we never will, earthly speaking. It’s about realizing that God doesn’t fit into a box and we shouldn’t try to put Him in one. That changed the whole way I was looking at the process. All that time I had been looking for the “right” answer but that wasn’t what it was about. Once I got that through my thick skull, the process became a lot less frustrating for me.

Today Rich** spoke at the Dwelling Place. He put up a quote that was about perfectionism but the last line reminded me of this.

“The sad part is, we never even notice how unpleasant and unbearable we become when we insist we are always right.” – Harold S. Kushner

Later today, Cary posted that quote on the DP blog along with another one that I liked.

“Being right about how wrong someone or something is can be pretty irresistible…..You could probably get a bunch of people to agree with you, and you could all sit on a bench together and revel in your rightness. But then what? While you’re busy being right, your whole life could float on by.” – Gail Blanke

While you’re busy being right, your journey will either float on by or come to a complete standstill. Because, I can’t say this enough, it is not about being right.

2. The journey must be approached with an attitude of humility.

This ties in with not having to be right but I thought it deserved it’s own section. Since this is not about being right, there is no room for pride. Pride comes when you are convinced that you are right and someone else is wrong and they are just refusing to see your obvious wisdom. This has been the downfall of the evangelical church! Why do you think we have so many different denominations? Because someone in the Luthern church thought that they had the right way of looking at a certain scripture and they got a few people to agree with them and when the majority wouldn’t listen, they went off and became the Methodists. Then someone in that church disagreed with something and got some people to agree and they went off and created the Anglicans. And so on and so forth. (Btw, I’m just making this up as I go. I have no idea what denominations were derived from what other denominations.) So now we have a completely devided church over stupid, stupid things. Like how we should baptize people or what kind of music we like or how and when we should take communion. That wasn’t the point of Jesus’ ministry and it wasn’t the point of the early church and it certainly shouldn’t be the point of churches today. Can those be important aspects? Sure! But it’s not worth dividing a church, and in lots of cases families and friends, over. If those groups had simply come together in the spirit of humility, there would be a lot less hurt and anger, even if they had decided that they needed to split the church. If you don’t approach the journey with a spirit of humility, it’s going to be very, very rough. Because, say it with me, it’s not about being right. Besides, to throw a Bible verse in, “Pride cometh before fall.” 😉

3. During the journey, do not make any drastic life decisions.

This is not the time to decide you want to marry someone or to buy a house or to switch to a new laundry detergent. Your life is in an upheaval. It feels like everything you once knew to be the absolute truth has been stripped away and you are left with nothing. In that time, the desperation to cling to something that seems stable is extremely tempting. But going back to something Rich said this morning, it seems that the deeper you get in your spiritual walk, the less peace there is and the more uncertain you are. The closer you are to God, the more it will seem like He has abandoned you.

“The goal of our lives is to break away from the illusion that God is not present.” – Rich

Just because we don’t feel God or can’t sense His presence, it doesn’t necessarily indicate His absence. If God seems far away, it is probably you who has done the moving. The fact that I will probably have less peace the closer I grow to God has disquieted me some. But I guess you can’t expect life to be easy. That’s why we go through things like a dark night of the soul.

4. The inner journey should lead to outward love. (Rich)

That is, overall, the point of this journey. That doesn’t mean that for you to be out of the dark night that you have to have mastered loving people. But the focus will slowly shift itself from yourself and figuring out what you believe to focusing on other people and loving them the way that Jesus would.

“Everything in your life is meant to love God and love others.” – Rich

When I started my journey, I stuck with two very basic principles. Love God and love others. Outside of that, anything else was up for grabs. Now the core of my faith is the Apostle’s Creed.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day, He rose again from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Amen.

5. During the journey, someone is more likely to encounter God in community than sitting at home by themself. (Rich)

Yes, this is the time to be reflecting on what you personally believe. That’s not to say that you have to be completely “others focused” or anything like that. In fact, even if you wanted to take a spiritual retreat and just go some place for a weekend or something to think things through, I personally would highly encourage it. The times that I thought of questions to ask and really wrestled with stuff was on my own.

However, Rich is right. We have communities for a reason. They are there to help us learn and grow and to stretch our thinking, as well as surrounding us when we are hurt or in need of help. The early church was created for a reason. If people could do this thing on their own, there would be no need for church or even human relationships really.

6. Did I mention humility? 😉

7. The journey is a time to be asking questions and listening to the people around you.

This was another reason I didn’t speak up very much during those first few months. I knew next to nothing about all of this. I’d been with Shane for awhile and he’d taught us some but never a hardcore, completely new way of looking at life. I didn’t have any answers. If I wasn’t comfortable with an answer someone gave me, I asked more questions. But never once did I try to act like I knew it all. Because I didn’t. That’s part of being a student. You don’t know much, if anything, about the subject. And even if you do, it’s not as much as your teacher knows. This goes back to the whole being right/having humility thing. Questions are fine. Accusations and anger are not. If you don’t like something someone says, either A: calmly and humbly tell them that or B: don’t engage them again.

8. Read and talk to various people. Don’t just stick to one person’s thoughts.

Most people get into trouble in their spiritual walk because they listen to only one or an extremely small group of people. Go to people whom you trust and who have been through this and are further ahead in the journey then you and ask their opinions and advice. Read a wide variety of books too. Don’t just stick to Brian McLaren or Donald Miller. The only way to make informed decisions about what you believe is if you are informed. Look at both sides of an issue and figure out what it is you truly believe about it.

9. When asking questions, not only should one be evaluating the question itself, they should be evaluating themselves to see why it is they are asking the question.

Asking questions is great. To a point. You should be examining your motives for questioning. I realize that it’s very rare that our motives for doing anything are 100% pure. But if that’s the case, then at least be honest that you have mixed motives in asking a question. Example: if you are questioning the church’s stance on drinking and what the Bible *really* has to say about it, if your main motive is that you want to be allowed to go out to the bars every night and get wasted (guilt free), then you probably shouldn’t even be thinking through it. If you ever approach the Bible for the fact that you want to do something and are looking for a loophole to be allowed to do it, you have missed the entire point of the book. It isn’t a set of black and white rules. “They’re more like guidelines.” 😉 Okay, just kidding. But you get what I’m saying.

10. Every journey will look different.

That’s all. Simply keep it in mind.

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Alright, I think I’ve blogged enough for one night. I’m pretty sure I covered everything that’s been floating in my head. Also, let me say that this list isn’t meant to be a set of rules either. As I said, every journey will look different and these aren’t the steps to get out of it. These are simply things I learned as I went along. I know that we rarely learn from other’s mistakes but maybe I can save someone a little grief. The biggest things that probably apply overall are that it’s not about being right and that it needs to be approached in humility. But then Jesus was big on humility and this journey is, after all, about finding Him and living as His disciple.

* As always, any “you” I used in this blog is generic. I never blog at anyone because the definition of blogging at someone is doing so with the hope that they read it and figure out that it’s about them, saving you a face to face confrontation. I don’t blog at people because I don’t care who reads it or who thinks it’s about them.

** I LOVE RICH! 🙂

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