I had a strange conversation with a friend the other day. He said that he has always wondered if God was leading in the ministry work that I've done, but sees clearly that God is leading in my most recent endeavor as a firefighter in the way doors have opened and my obvious passionate pursuit of it.
(For anyone who may not know, I recently earned a top hiring slot for the West Metro Fire Department here in Denver. This is my next adventure after my life with YFC).
Since I was in college I have tried hard to follow what I believe God wanted me to do. I searched for HIS will in things; tried to understand what HE would have me do. I knew that if this God was true, than I wanted to put my whole life into serving HIM. The roles Mindy and I have had have been carefully considered in light of this desire.
Through my recent faith struggles and my disappointment with ministry, I was left to ask what's next. For the first time, I had little desire to "ask God" for the answer...to seek what he wanted. Instead, I decided what I wanted and pursued it whole heartedly - with great success.
Now, I'm not saying this isn't what God wanted necessarily. I'm just saying I did not take labored consideration to figure out what God wanted.
So I am left with a nagging question: Why is it that of all the times that I have tried to pursue God's will, the time someone sees it in me is the time I did not consider it very highly in my process?
A month dormant. A month of events in life that I have not put into words. There is something therapeutic about being forced to put our life into words that I think those of you who have blogs of your own will understand. Something that makes us sit down and think about our lives. Something that makes us articulate the little things or thoughts in life that so often pass by without a second thought. And it is something deeper than just journally because we must put it is something that we must explain well enough for others to understand. Something that makes us ask what those who may pass through our virtual lives may actually be interested in... whether parents, friends, random internet searches, or just our own selves looking back at our sporadic glances and deep thoughts in life.
Well, I'm back, and I hope somewhat consistently - although I make no promises. Those who were reading this have probably long left and gone so I somewhat feel I'm writing to myself. If you are out there please continue to check in regularly (or sign up for updates). And as you read something you like, don't like, disagree with, or that sparks a thought of your own, let me know your there!
Oh, and if you have any ideas for posts, let me know!
Authenticity. Honesty. Transparency. In a world of "Mcsoundbytes" and "how-you-doing-but-give-me-the-answer-in-5-seconds-or-less" relationships, I believe we all long to be truly known.Many of us walk through life afraid to let ourselves be known for fear that others won't take the time to care or out of fear of rejection - or perhaps more accurately that we will not be understood in our core selves. We are careful with who we are authentic with - as if each person in my life is allowed a certain level of access to the person I want them to see, but requires the top secret password for the true self that we feel inside.
I value being real. I think we all do at some level. It is refreshing to us when others are real - faults and all - because we don't see it all that often in our world today. That is what this blog has been about for me. This entire faith struggle or the thoughts that I've had could very easily be handled internally, but I value the opportunity to be authentic with those around me - and yes publicly.
I found out Monday, however, that the authenticity that I have so valued has a sharp side to it that when not handled carefully can lead to deep wounds by the very wielder of it. When you wear you heart on your sleeve, it leaves it vulnerable to misunderstanding since the practice is so rare. I know many pastors and missionaries who have struggled in ways that I have shared and walk the route of keeping it to themselves. Who can judge them, for it is their very faith that provides their paycheck and their identity!
On Monday, I was informed that I am terminated from my place of employment because they "no longer have confidence in [my] ability to provide spiritual leadership in the capacity to which [I] had been assigned." One can hardly blame them. The Christian community is uncomfortable with doubt and honest questions - especially from their leaders. It was my own desire to be transparent that allowed questions to creep in to my performance. Perhaps we must choose more carefully who we are authentic with. But even if we look only for safe places, we can often misjudge safety.
No, I still think that we need to be true to who we are even at the risk of being misunderstood or rejected because of it. I think that the reality of our journeys in this life are too profound to hide in a shroud of fear and uncertainty. This last month has shown me anew the value of being real over and over again in my interactions with others and my own personal journey of finding a foundation in the reliability of Christ - even as I question other things.
Thank you all again for joining me in that. I look forward to continuing to write boldly and, yes, authentically.
I realize I've been a bit silent this week - both on new posts and replies to your comments. I'm still here and haven't "quit" blogging. I'm in some intense study this week on Jesus and faith and have put on hold any distractions such as the blog for now.
However, I still appreciate your comments and you holding on for new posts coming very soon (how about I promise by Monday of next week)!
I have always believed that if God is truth, then he can stand up to our inquiry toward truth without failing.
A few of you have thrown out the challenge for me to look at why I believed in the first place. Fair enough. In this post, however, I will not argue against these, but simply allow the reflection to sink in.
I was 15 when I attended church with the sole purpose of figuring out if I should be an outspoken opponent to the "whitewashing damage of this crazy institution." This idea that there there was an invisible being that loved people struck me as a solid helping of B.S.
Attending that service, a number of people gave testimonies of how their lives had changed due to this belief in God. I wasn't stupid or gullible enough to believe this crap, but I conceded not be outspoken against it since the belief was doing some good for these gullible souls (to some extent that is where I'm afraid I might fall now).
At 16 I noticed that I was becoming a person I did not respect. I was into drinking, girls, and other vices of teens at a level that I knew was not healthy. Then, a friend (of course a female) invited me to a church service. The youth pastor spoke of the rationalityof believing in the resurrection (primarily that alternate theories were not rational). I had never known that Christians actually thought - AT ALL. This gave me my first exposure to apologetics.
I quickly read a short book by Josh McDowell called More than a Carpenter which outlines the logical reasons to believe in Jesus - he claimed to be God, he was not crazy or misguide, the bible is a reliable account of him, the disciples who knew him best died for their belief in him...etc. All backed up through evidence and logic. It made sense to me.
Since then I have matured in my understanding of other reasons to believe based on evidence and logic. In college and beyond I have always told others: Give me a more logical explanation of things and I will happily reconsider my position. I have no interest in following a false God. I have always believed that if God is truth, then he can stand up to our inquiry toward truth without failing.
Today, in this journey, I have begun doubting some of that foundation. This week I have been re-reading More than a Carpenter. It is refreshing to once again to be reminded of some of the simple logic that led me to belief.
What I have remembered this week is that it was an understanding of Jesus that led me to believe in God - not an understanding of God that led me to Christianity. Therefore, I have started again looking at this man Jesus and the accounts of him as I search for any solid grounding to stand upon.
If doubts are normal, don't you think that in itself is a problem to the Christian faith?
Over the past few weeks, after making this struggle public, I have heard a lot of comments such as "What your going through is perfectly normal," or "You know all Christians go through this." I've even been reading a few books on the Christian faith journey that speak of this as "the Wall" or "the Dark Night of the Soul." Others have admitted to me similar questions that they have wrestled with or are currently wrestling with.
I appreciate the comments from those who want me to see hope. But here is my reflection this morning: Doesn't it sound odd to you that we believers must fight doubt in our own mind in order to accept truth?
Some philosophers and theologians even say that we must have doubt and that faith is belief in the face of reason. Here is a quote from Soren Kierkegaard:
"The need for 'reasons' is already a kind of doubt – doubt lives off reasons. We fail to notice that the more reasons one advances, the more one nourishes doubt and the stronger doubt becomes. Offering doubt reasons in order to kill it is just like offering a hungry monster food it likes best of all in order to eliminate it. No, we must not offer reasons to doubt – at least not if our intention is to kill it. We must do as Luther did, order doubt to shut its mouth, and to that end we must keep quiet."* REALLY?!?! Would we not state that if someone who believed some non-Christian viewpoint (such as evolution, Islam, Mormonism, etc) said this that they were only deluding themselves? I realize doubt does not prove or disprove reality in and of itself, but the acceptance that we all doubt and must "overcome" those doubts in this sense seems extremely suspect in any view of the truth to me.
* From Provocations, a free online e-book compilation of the Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard found HERE. p. 77
It’s amazing how much emotions control our lives. There are a ton of examples I could use – from the trauma we’ve faced to our view of ourselves to our mood in a given moment. Emotions play a large part of who we are, what we do, and even what we believe.
As I explore my doubt in God, I am well aware that there is much under the surface of intellect that could be based in emotional issues… broken trust of leaders in my life, hurt from the people I thought I could trust, experiences where I trusted God and received hurt… or my family was hurt.
Perhaps it even goes back to the cliché “daddy issues.” I love my dad, but the reality is his personality is not the type to initiate contact and reach out to be there. (Dad, if you ever read this realize I’m not blaming you and love you a ton – I’m commenting on a personality trait that you have admitted to me). If we often perceive God as we do our earthly Father, well of course I doubt if he is initiating involvement today in the world.
Of course this is not just true of those of us who struggle with faith. Christians come to believe in God for a variety of needs in their life: to be loved, to belong to a community, to have a sense of purpose and worth, to escape something in their lives, or for hope in the hopelessness – all common results of emotional “issues.”
I’m a heady guy. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life analyzing myself and the situations around me. I can’t begin to tell you how many personality tests I’ve taken, how many counseling sessions I’ve sat through, and how many books I’ve read to seek an understanding of myself and the world.
I don’t know if anyone out there is like me, but I find it much easier to analyze and think than it is to feel and hurt. “Deal with the trauma and emotional issues in your life” we are told… I am told. But what does that even mean. If I have an intellectual issue, I know I can read a book, reason, research, think… but how does one address the heart issues – just continue to think about something until I cry?
The emotional reality does not negate the intellectual difficulty, but I would encourage others out there who struggle… or who don’t think about why they believe… to realize the deep issues that underlie those intellectual issues we may have. I’ll let you know if I ever find the answer of what to do with those emotions, but if we are going to be authentic in our walk through life, we have to admit the deep sources that we often mask by staying in the head.
This weekend I took a break from the theological ponderings and spend some quality time with the family. A beautiful Saturday led us to the park for Jamie's first time riding a bike without training wheels. He nailed the downhill and is now ready for the balance challenge of the flat ground.
Today (and possibly tomorrow) there will be no new post on faith. I want to give ample time for people to really answer yesterday's post.
I did want to answer one concern, though, that has come up. My intent in asking for your stories is as a mutual encouragement and challenge based on your belief (or response to mine). I have absolutely no intention of trying to attack, discredit, or blow off your personal thoughts. In the future, I may post questions or ideas based on some of your thoughts, but never in direct attack or in belittling your experience or reason directly. I simply want to hear your hearts and thoughts and I think it would do each of you well to hear it from each other - whether your grounding is simple or complex, logical or illogical, defendable or not... those labels are unnecessary and irrelevant. This is simply a time to hear from each of you.
The Neighborhood of My Mind: Faith Struggles, Family, and Random Thoughts
by Michael Rogers
No, there are no trolleys and no cardigan sweaters here. This is simply a place to process my recent struggles with faith in God, show off my family, process important issues, and post random thoughts. With nearly 9 years in full time ministry (the only occupation I've really known) and a family of two rambunctious boys, I have plenty going on inside my head. This is my life and thoughts.