“The spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self.” – Brendan Manning
“Our plan for redemption is hard to let go of; it clings to our hearts like an octopus.” – John Eldredge
“Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)
If you had seen me a few months ago, you would have seen a boy struggling to make his way. I know faith is not based on works, but I began to base it on job performance and spiritual disciplines. If I worked harder, then I would eventually free up time to focus on my spiritual life. If I focused on my spiritual life, then my connection with God would get closer. My life was an if/then formula. John Eldredge hit the nail on the head, this was my plan of redemption, not Gods.
I honestly do not know what I really expected going into training camp. It was the first breather I had had in a long time. Each “break” prior to training camp (Four of July, Easter, Christmas) was really more winding down than focusing on my own spiritual health. This week there was no avoiding it. I remember the whole drive to training camp I was trying to let go of all responsibilities and all expectations. My jaw was shut tight and my hands fiercely gripped the wheel. I could not even use cruise control since I was so tense. I was so used to controlling my own life and my own situations.
The Adventures in Mission staff say that our training camp was intense and like no other. I believe it. They were heavy on lectures the first few days of training camp. I think we spent pretty much all of the first three days in the auditorium listening and taking notes. Each session dove deeper and deeper emotionally and spiritually. Here is an entry from my journal:
Yesterday they asked us if we had ever grieved our past, not just simply asked for forgiveness, but grieved our old sinful self. I sat there and thought. I do not think I have ever grieved my past. Maybe that is why it still haunted me so. Maybe it was holding me back. One can ask for forgiveness over and over, but until you can fully accept and acknowledge that Christ has covered all your sins you will still circle back over and over to guilt and shame. I had been doing that for years, circling back to who I was, falling back into pits that I had asked for forgiveness from. I was the dog who was eating its vomit (Proverbs 26:11).
God began really working in me hardcore that day. It was the first time in a long time that he had my full and undivided attention. In fact, one of the first things I heard him speak to me that week was, “So how has your Christian walk been up to this point?” My response? “It sucks!” Up to that point I had struggled with the thought that Christ is working out my salvation, not me. There was nothing, nothing I could do to gain more of His love or become more Christian. I could not fully see that my identity was in Christ, not in my job, friends, culture and more. I had no control, He was in control. I don’t create my identity, He shows me my identity is in Him.
Try as we might by our appearance, performance or social status to find self-verification for a sense of being somebody, we always come short of satisfaction. Whatever pinnacle of self-identity we achieve soon crumbles under the pressure of hostile rejection or criticism, introspection or guilt, fear or anxiety. We cannot do anything to qualify for the by-product of being loved unconditionally and voluntarily. – Neil T. Anderson
I have been a Christian since I was a young boy. I have always known God loves me and Christ died for me. But I have never fully grasped nor trusted that He accepts me for who I am, He is the one who makes me more of a man and He is the one who frees me from myself and makes me more like Him each day. Nothing and no one else can give me full satisfaction, unconditional love and self-worth other than Him.
There are bigger things that God did that week that I hope to share with you in time, but I know that the change that has occurred in my heart during and since training camp is more than enough to justify writing this to you, my fellow viewers, supporters, alumni and squad mates. I am not the same man I was two months ago. Change has happened. Change is continuing to happen because of Him.
A new season of life has been birthed. God is good.