There is so much going on inside of me that I don’t really know where to begin. Yet, I know that if I just let this pass without writing something down, I will regret it. I guess I will start at the beginning; it’s a very good place to start. I recently came back from a conference where many leaders in my denomination got together. It was such a great gathering, because in times when there is so much focus on what is wrong with the church, it was a great reminder that we are truly united in the Spirit. I went with a group from my college, and we had a time of testimonies on the long drive back. That time lasted two hours—God was working so much through so many. God was doing specific things in the lives of so many people around me. It was such a time for empowerment that it cannot be denied. I am truly rejoicing for what God is doing in the lives of the people on my campus, in my community, and within the church.
As I was sharing all that with my fellow RAs during our RA meeting last night, Amy looked at me and said, “How was it for you?” And I was thinking, “Great, well, I was hoping that we could just ignore what it meant for me and what God was doing for me. I could just go on and on about other people’s stories and experiences. I didn’t really want to have to answer for myself.”
Because, to be completely honest, the entire time I felt like God was silent. There was nothing stirring inside of me. I was feeling so incredibly dry and spiritually empty. Don’t get me wrong, I know how selfish I sound when I say it out loud. I was questioning why God was working in the lives of so many people around me and yet, he was not working in me, and I doubted God, doubted my call. I will be honest: I was really struggling. Riding back on the bus, I started crying. And I mean, crying—snot and all. I was able to talk to my roommate, who was sitting next to me, and she spoke such powerful words of truth into my life. I am still struggling with being able to take hold of what she said, but I am trying to accept them as truth.
Coming back, I have been able to process it with my youth pastor back home as well as a new friend of mine. First of all, my youth pastor said that he feels like that’s where he has been (in the spiritually dry place) for the last year and a half, which was comforting. It was like being handed a card that says, “You too? I thought I was the only one” in a world where cards are just always about encouragement. It is good to know that I am not the only one. I mean, let’s face it; it is tough to be surrounded by people who are so in tune with the Spirit when all you are hearing is silence. Yet, I am reminding myself that despite the stillness, God is still moving.
While talking with my new friend, who, by the way, is exactly one of those people that are hard to be around because they are so spiritual, I was sort of forced to think about what it would look like if I did things like believe the words my roommate said about me were true and things like seek God above everything else. I don’t really have an answer for what it would look like, but I know that I need to flesh out what’s rattling around in my head and heart right now. Even though I’d really rather be put together in front of him so he won’t realize how messed up I am (because you would never choose to enter into a relationship with someone if you knew how messed up they were), I was as honest as I could be. Authenticity is my strength and my weakness.
I think I have both of those people to thank (probably over and over again) for allowing me to process with them. As I was then able to share in my RA meeting, I was able to be a little more honest and open with them. That tends to be more difficult than I think, because even though I think all the RAs that I serve with are awesome, I am only close with many one or two. I strive for honesty, yes, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Yet, I was able to tell them what I was thinking in an honest way. As we went around the circle to each share something—others were saying similar things to me, others were feeling similar feelings of emptiness. In fact, one pointed out how she was amazed that I shared what I did, because she had been feeling the exact same, but was afraid of why she was feeling that way, even with God doing such a work on our campus. Maybe openness really does build bonds.
Another reason it was hard to feel so empty and dry was because I knew that there was this cloud over my head. It was written down in my planner long ago—I had to preach for my Intro to Preaching class today. I knew the passage—it was the passage where we find Nicodemus talking to Jesus as he explains being reborn. How on earth was I supposed to preach on new life when my life felt so dead? It has been an interesting process, the development of my sermon. I remember reading in one of Francis Chan’s books about how he remembered hearing that even if you are not 100% sure, you should still preach like you are. He pushed back on that by saying something about how if we are only 90% sure; why not preach like we are only 90% sure? (I don’t remember the exact percent or the exact quote, but hopefully you get the idea.) So, that’s what I did. I preached honestly. I know I was preaching for a grade, and that’s probably not ideal to have a pastor come before his or her people and admit to being spiritually empty, but I was, so I couldn’t fake it. You can’t fake what the Spirit is or isn’t doing in your life, so why try to be anything but honest and real and open? I preached it a couple hours ago, and I won’t get feedback until Monday, but I am proud of what I said. I know that the sermon could have been better, I could have dig deeper into the main scripture that I was assigned, I could have presented more historical background, I probably could have done a lot more a lot better. However, I just was completely honest with them. Sometimes, that’s really all you can do.
So where do I go from here? Well, it’s funny that you should ask. I think maybe that I will listen to myself in my sermon. I know that it is times when it is difficult that we can make one of two choices: give up or grow up. I don’t know about you, but I am going to choose this as a moment when I can grow. I will cling to the fact that God is unchanging. I will stay grounded in what I believe, I will stay grounded in knowing that God loved me so much that he gave his son for me, and I will stay grounded in Jesus’ resurrected life which gives me the ability to live out in the newness of life in Christ. I will cling to the fact that I know God is calling me closer to him. I will seek God, through digging into the Word, through prayer, and through the fellowship that I have in my community. I will speak more words of truth into my own life as I try to accept that I am good, that I just might be righteousness like Aubrey said (though I don’t think anyone has ever described me as righteousness before), that I am loved. I know that I am going to have more doubts in my life, and I know that there will be more times when I am spiritually empty. When I am dry, it is in those times even more that I need to constantly return to the One who is the Spring of Life. Praise be to God, it is only in him that we can be restored.