I had been laying on the carpet so long that it had left impressions on my face and arm that begin to ting with slight pricks of pain. Furthermore, my mind and heart were stinging with heavy convictions.
It was fall 2007 amidst the energy and excitement of the global leadership summit. John Ortberg had just spoken about the leadership of Esther. As the story goes, Esther was “called to the kingdom for such a time” to advocate mercy for her people in a moment of dire need. Ortberg went on to say that though she had received a mission from God she was also offered a shadow mission. She could use her gifts, talents, abilities, position and influence to advance God’s purposes or she could use them to advance her own ambition and some worldly agenda. Thus just on the other side of God’s mission for her was the possibility to live an entirely different life. The former required great risk, even the risk of her own life, the other played into the cultural and societal expectations and was far safer.
I picked my face up from the carpet rug placed over the sacristy floor and looked up at the large cross against the wall. “Whoever wants to follow me,” Jesus said, must first take up their cross.” The sacristy was the name for our community’s prayer room. I was here in the middle of the summit wrestling with the implications of my mission and calling in light of the possibility that I could be or could become enamored with living only a shadow of the mission God had on my life. I could look to what culture said with what I was endowed—an intellectual gifting, a fearless sense of adventure, a fierce passion, a same-gendered orientation of eros, and capable agency of my giftings in academia—and I could make a bold life for myself or I could lay it at the foot of this cross and say take me, take all of me and do what thou wilt but only thy will be done in me and around me and not my own save that it has so collided and conformed to thine that it has become wholly yours.
What did I want? What do I still want? The language of the will is the language of the heart and to say that I was going to lay down my life for King Jesus was nothing less than to give him my heart. The great anxiety of our time, in my generation, and especially in that season of my life is how do I say the I in I do, if I don’t know who I am? The use of bridal language is completely appropriate because the life of commitment to Jesus is always caught up in the larger call to come out of the world and to be conjoined to a people who are configured, mystically, into the bride of Christ. He is, as some speak of him, our Bridegroom King.
The Lord revealed to me in that prayer that my heart was lost, consequently I didn’t know who I was, and I needed to go on a journey with the Lord in finding my heart. He used the analogy of a cave in which I would encounter the past and present, engage in spiritual warfare and walk into the future with God. The goal was to gain my heart back, he told me further that there was a war in my soul over my heart. He was beckoning me to fight, to take up arms in the strength of the Lord and his mighty power. He also mentioned, at times, that brothers would join me in this fight as I allowed them, under the Lord’s leading, into the cave.
Juxtaposed with this picture, the Father told me that he knew where every broken fragment and piece of my heart was and he loved every part and was going to bring it into wholeness. He was going to heal my heart and that my heart already existed in its whole form within his heart and that to gain my heart I must pursue his.
It’s been six and a half years since then. David spent a few years cave dwelling between his anointing and call and his walking into the fulfillment of that call. In Christ, we are all called into a prophetic, priestly and kingly life. It’s part of our inheritance as baptized children of God, adopted by God’s Spirit in the kingdom-family of His Son. So how has this journey gone?
A few lessons learned along the way:
1) We receive our identity in the place of encounter with Christ and never on our own or elsewhere. Apart from the light of Christ, the nous; i.e. the eye of the soul, and the cosmos; i.e. the world, have become a haunt and abode for wicked and deceiving spirits who bring perverted knowledge. Therefore, introspection and experience or the words of others in the world are unreliable sources of constructing our identity and we must encounter and receive from Christ our true identities like Peter did when he first confessed upon revelation from the Father that Jesus was indeed the Lord’s Messiah and the holy one of God.
2) Don’t forget in the darkness what you learned in the light. These were prophetic words my grandma shared with me a year and a half later, when I had fallen into a depression and deep sense of lonliness that drew me out of true safety, in the place of God’s light, and into a counterfeit safety of defending myself against the horror, angst and loneliness of the world through my own jaded, and consequentially sinful means. I made a lot of progress before, when I lived in the discipleship community of Copenhagen International Masters Commission in coming to the reality of my estate and the journey that lay ahead. I progressed in that journey by letting God father me and receiving the identity of sonship, the promise of God’s faithfulness towards me and with me to do life together, and that I belonged to God as a beloved treasure of His heart. I began in the spirit but began to operate in the flesh (see Gal. 3:3). I walked in the counsel of my mind instead of the Spirit; a mind informed by the Word of God no less, but the letter and not the breath that makes such words the living and enduring word of God. It was law and not gospel and so under the law I began to despise myself as I found myself vexed under the whims of my carnal mind and passions. Thus in the darkness of the mindset of my old man I forgot what I learned in the light. I forgot the joy of simple trust in Jesus and obedience for the sake of nothing but God’s glory. As I progressed I began to leave the posture of humility as I became puffed up, seeking knowledge above love. It’s important to say that I am speaking of large general movements and paradigms of thinking in seasons of my life amidst which there were many moments of true belief and true repentance, humility before God and stretches of growth and obedience, without which I by and large would not likely still be a follower of Jesus.
3). Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save (Psalm 146:3, NIV). Though I have a tendency towards several defense mechanisms, intellectualism being a common one, none has threatened to be the predominant narrative by which I read and navigate life then the pursuit of princes and I’m not talking about the Prince of Peace. As I’ve mentioned above, part of what I’ve been endowed by experience —I don’t claim that I’ve been endowed by God or nature—is an emotional matrix that is same-gender oriented. (Some people call this homosexual but I avoid this label, or labels in general which have a tendency to be read as prescriptive instead of descriptive). Thus this pursuit of princes for me had been more than just security placed in man in general, but charged with the passions of romance and sexual power. In my flesh I really began to believe at a growing rate that if I just had a man life would be a garden of flowers and happiness. Of course, in my rational mind I knew this was naive and smelled of deception but we all have a tendency to believe things we know aren’t true because they feel so true somewhere in our intuition or flesh. If we forget we have a jaded perspective it can be easy to believe these fancies. I should clarify that for most of this stretch I’ve adhered to the traditional teaching on human sexuality and so I looked for princes not in the essence and form of boyfriend or lover but as friend and brother trusting that a deep emotional, chaste and celibate relationship was permissible and therefore must be beneficial because I ached for it so long. There in the arms of, or,, erm, I mean hand in hand with a man I could finally be safe! I’d be secure in a constant state of belovedness, right? Silly me to think a man could save and that the boundless love of the God-man was insufficient. Actually, how tragic but that’s what happens when you began to operate in the flesh and not in the spirit.
Some areas of the church have begun to reexamine their position on human sexuality as the cultural winds have shifted yet again and if I might say, as an aside, that the faithful Church must not leave two grounding points as it engages in in moral deliberation. First off, when experience challenges the previously held teaching of the Church, the Church must go first and primarily to the Scriptures in search of an answer and not the world. The Church is bound to the Scriptures as its source and norm of all matters related to faith and life. Secondly, there are not set schemas in Christianity. Christianity is not about a map so much as a relationship. The Church best holds up the Scriptures not as the rule book where we get our answers but as the place where we encounter the living Word. Jesus, as the Eternal Word of God, is the one to whom we owe our homage and to whom we submit as our Lord. Thus in a place of humility, renouncing claims to some kind of preferred or unique perspective of our own and thus claiming to have a kind of secret knowledge, we come to the Spirit who guides us into all truth. This second reality relates more to the Church’s pastoral theology in regards to sexual minorities who struggle with conflicting passions. Not here, take this guidebook or this map or follow this step by step method or join this program but here, take his hand! See how he loves you! His wounded hands reach out to save you! You may hide yourself there for his wounds always run deeper and he is faithful to lead you in paths of righteousness for his name sake. This exhortation to walk hand and hand with Christ is not a cop out! Its not a bypass to solving the moral conundrum of our time but doing the most needful thing we must make known in our time which is to preach Christ and him crucified. What other than the proclamation of the Gospel will disarm the powers and principalities that seek to clay claim to the structures, systems, institutions and paralyze flesh-and-bone people caught up in the great confusion that spews force from the failure of modernity? God is not the author of confusion as St. Augustine stated, the heart of man ever restless, o God, until it rests in you.
And, sexual orientation aside, and the large cultural debate that has flooded certain parts of the Church’s theological deliberation aside —men and women cannot save us! Whether lovers, or spouses or friends, or a community, people will fail us and they weren’t meant to save us! This counterfeit is so compelling because it is so near the truth —we are saved as a People by a Person but not any old group of folks and not any old man. We are saved with the People of God by the man of God’s own choosing, not ours. We heed the words of the prophet
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.~Jeremiah 2:13
God alone can make us dwell in safety (Ps 4:8). We must repent of any other source of protection and security from the harshness, angst, loneliness and cold brutality of our fallen world besides the Lord God. All of my fountains are in him.
4). “What is God’s will for my life” is a question spiritual orphans ask; when God saves us he adopts us into spiritual family and we ask together “what is God’s will for us? ” As the scriptures say, “God puts the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Actually, this is God’s answer to the problem or evil of being alone (Gen. 2:18). God gives Adam (Heb.man) Eve but she is named such because she is the mother of all the living. God resolves the first problem of man not merely by making a helper but by giving him family. Jesus, the new Adam, gives us a new definition of family:
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
And he is not denying that Mary is indeed his mother. Who is Mary but the one who said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Lk 1:38, KJV). If we look to her example it is: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5, NIV). And so as the first to believe in Christ, Mary is in this sense the mother of all who believe and in desiring to obey the will of God still very much a mother in this new sense. Protestants have tended to downplay the role of Mary in response to extremes in the Roman Catholic Church but we should be less reactive to human practices and more proactive receiving and celebrating the role Scripture gives her. To do so here would, I think, miss the crucial links between Kingdom and family that reveal how inextricably bound up they are one in the other.
The summer of 2011 I came out of a long affair with a princely pursuit that left me in quite a lot of hurt and pain. I was disillusioned. I thought I was doing the Lord’s will because I was following a program a that was licit (this princely pursuit was one of friendship). I entered a “sun scorched land” ( Ps 68:6c) as out of pain I no longer could trust God as fully from my heart. The war in my soul had not ebbed around my heart; my confidence shaken, it was the perfect moment for the enemy to flow in with his forces and pomps of deception and vain imaginations. What else is our shield against his flaming darts save the shield of our faith and trust? The Lord spoke powerfully to me in the midst of this situation that I had dwelt long enough on this mountain, of identity confusion, and was to come with him into the desert. Here lies the principle that not all who wander are lost. Israel wandered in the desert to their ruin but God also called to his bride through the prophet Hosea saying (2:13-15):
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about the eremitic life, the life of a desert one
They manifest to everyone the interior aspect of the mystery of the Church, that is, personal intimacy with Christ. Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One. (CCC 921)
And this is where I was back in 2007 with the cross before my eyes and this is where I have returned and bided for the last couple years making little progress as the Lord captures my heart afresh. The beauty is in God’s grace. I have been unfaithful; he has remained faithful. I am not deserving of his patience but he has remain committed to me. Here in the desert the Lord has recommitted that he will make my heart his throne and will cleanse my inner life of idols. He has promised that as I spin a cocoon through the practice of prayer my new life will emerge from this. A dear sister I met at the beginning of 2012 while I was studying in Japan confirmed this when she prayed over me and shared a word of knowledge saying I see you going into the desert to die, there are some of us standing around your casket but its also a celebration because your new life is going to emerge.
To return to the desert language Scripture is so rich with it says in the 107th Psalm:
Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle. (4-7)
About this city it goes on to say (vv 35-37):
He turned the desert into pools of water
and the parched ground into flowing springs;
there he brought the hungry to live,
and they founded a city where they could settle.
They sowed fields and planted vineyards
that yielded a fruitful harvest
Just weeks prior to my sister’s word and prayer the Lord gave me a vision of children building a sand castle while I was out swimming in the sea. He said, I’m giving you playmates to build the kingdom and just week or two later I met the folks I believed the Lord was giving me. In a weekend prayer gathering we learned about the orphan spirit and I heard the words that make the heading of §4 for the first time and it brought healing to my soul. The Lord was putting me in family and my spirit rejoiced. The realization of this placement has never been more fully realized then perhaps in this last month of living at the Kansas City Boiler Room among some of those good folks.
5) God is committed to me more than I could ever possibly imagine. Perhaps I could try to run out from God’s will, like Johanah but God’s will is still accomplished and I have relented to say again Yes!!!!! Yes I want you, yes I want your will and I want to be a child of the day! I wont settle for a mere shadow of the life God has called me into existence for. I write these words with so much joy in my heart, a deep and abiding joy that I have not been able to recognize or feel for a long time; it is a joy sprung from hope. There is water in the desert and Jesus is the one who gives it. His Spirit is inside of us and rivers flow out of us. God reminded me of my middle name Jordan, meaning living water. He desires me to be full of this so I can dispense it to dry places. But before I go I must let him finish his work. The theme is still to be finished before the song is sung. There can be no independent living and I must live in utter dependence upon the Father and in a radical interdependence with the family of God amongst whom God has placed me. But before I could begin to hope again and to believe in this life flourishing condition of kingdom-family I had to believe that God loved me just as I was, even with my habits of rebellion and means of medicating my own pain. He has wooed me and it has been lovely. Now, when I experience pain or its memory I can pour my life like water before the Lord and remember that he has the oil of gladness with which to heal any brokenness of heart or spirit. The journey to my heart in his heart, the season of growing in wholeheartedness and wholeness does not end. We don’t get fixed and then sent. We continue to live in process even as we do mission and bring water to desert places. The key is do we know that we’re loved. Do I know that I am loved, lovable, worthy of love, that God calls me beloved. Do I know that I am His and that he is ever more making me His so that I may become the fullness of all that God dreamed. Do I know that I am his dream? His dreams are so much bigger than mine! I can let my fancies die so that I can live his dreams in the way of Jesus. This is just a beginning to how much God is indeed committed to me.
6 and a half) Life is meant to be lived in the Spirit. So God called me to move to Kansas City, as I have mentioned I am there now with the Boiler Room family, and a group of us have been learning how to do life all over again in a course called Life Training School (LTS). We’ve become like children beginning all over again with the reality that God is good and he is love. Learning not with our mind but with our hearts and thus being awakened to our childhood and family belonging in God in a radical way. I have relearned that to move according to the life of God is to move to the rhythms of grace and to live on the bread of God’s word as he leads us through the junctions of our days and lives, and his will, implying that life in the Spirit is not enough to hear what God is saying but to do it. My experience in LTS has confronted a lot of rebellion and strongholds that have persisted from the old country and “former way of living” that has been uncomfortable, challenging and even painful to run up against but I am rejoicing that God is helping me to put off the old self which is being corrupted and to put on the new self in Christ which is being renewed day by day. God is making more room for himself in me that I might live dead so that he may live in and through me. If I might sum up what LTS has done for me the it has allowed all of the attitudes and deep seated heart beliefs that were not in line with the Gospel to be cleared away so that my interior life is recapitulated in such a way to receive the most from the flow of God’s grace and to actually make life in the Spirit the daily practice of real life. Supernaturally natural.
So how has the journey gone? Its been a bumpy ride. I don’t know the road ahead but I am reminded by the words of C.S. Lewis concerning this Lion: “Safe?..Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He’s the King, I tell you.” So whatever lay ahead, its best to know that its not safe in some sort of quaint way—its full of danger, adventure, risk, pain, suffering, loss, sorrow and most of all its full of Him. I am the road, Jesus says. And loving him takes all the pain away from the sorrows the road may bring. He is all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy and with him is life, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit which he pours out daily as I hope in him. To him be the glory forever and ever, Amen.
Here I am Lord; I’ve come to do your will.
Here I am Lord, in your presence I am still.