Fellow Travellers In The Valley of The Shadow

He who goes by Bill Metanoya emailed me the other day and told me that he was going to hold his breath until I blogged again, that he needed a fix.  I can only hope that he was bluffing.  If not, my most sincere apologies to Becky and Larissa. 

Here’s my blog.  Take a deep breath, Bill, you’re gonna need it.

Sometimes obeying God feels like utter and complete shit, and the thing that pisses me off about most Christians is that they won’t admit it. 

God told me two years ago to do something, and I did it.  I completed the task.  I finished the race.  I fought a good fight.  I can say, without hesitation, that I obeyed Him. 

In the end, at least thus far, it hasn’t gone “My” way, or at least in the direction that I thought it should.  The end result has seemed like it in no way justifies the sweat, blood, and tears that I invested.  I felt like I was at the end of a big fat cosmic, “Eff You!  See ya sucka!”

Most Christians don’t like to hear things like that.  It makes them all twitchy.  The platitudes start flying fast and furious. 

The other night, some friends were over, and we were talking about this chapter in our lives, and this couple named Dan and Jaime listened intently to my story.  They nodded their heads and said things like, ”Yeah… we’ve felt like that before.”   

I told them how I felt like I had been stabbed in the back by The Almighty, and Jaime said something that finally meant something to me. 

It was along the lines of, “Well… you obeyed God and it didn’t feel good.  So what?  Congrats!  You’re now like every prophet in the Scripture.  You’re in good company.  The question is not whether or not it feels good, the question is whether or not you were obedient.”

It put my soul at something resembling peace for the first time in three months. 

Sometimes obeying God feels like shit, and I’m ok with that.  If, in the future, God brings someone into my path who says this to me, I will speak peace and truth and empathy into their lives like Jaime spoke into mine. 

You may now exhale.

28 thoughts on “Fellow Travellers In The Valley of The Shadow

  1. Bill Metanoya

    Chad, Mike, Andy, I and the rest of the “Creative Team” stood in the gap; day after day, week after week, month after month. God arranged everything so that we could be right where He needed us, when He needed us and made sure we were totally dependent on Him. He called and without hesitation we all took off where He told us to go without any idea about the destination.

    On the journey we learned each others moods and ways, we learned each others strengths and weaknesses, we learned how to support and be there for each other, how to cover each others back. And week after week we made a space for God to fill, and He filled it! He was glorified through His son and hearts were filled with love and desire for more of Jesus. We did it without extra money, without fanfare, without ads in the local paper or anything that most people think of as the way “church is done”. We stood toe to toe with Satan and everything of this world that tells you, “you can’t”, “you don’t have the training or the experience or the means…”. We did it, not because someone told us to, but because Jesus is more than adequate and God wanted us to show people how incredible he is and to remind them of the roots of their faith. It was great. I loved it.

    We fought the good fight and when it was time we quietly and humbly stepped aside. I know now, more than at any other time in my life, what it means to be part of a band of brothers, to do spiritual battle, and to be part of sewing the seeds of God’s word (Jesus) into the hearts of believers. I wouldn’t trade the last 12 months for anything. The early church, with it’s stories about Jesus and sharing everything – joy and burdens, is the only way to do church. I am brothers with you Chad, always.

    The story isn’t over but the situation is very different and the chapter we’re on right now is pretty dull, boring and incredibly disappointing. It contrasts with the last 12 months in almost every way, on every level. Before God was vibrant and alive, we were vibrant and alive because of Him and now someone has poured molasses over the whole thing and we are mired and drowning in mind numbing, teeth rotting, bed pan clanging, retirement home, slow death by doctrine.

    Someone has taken the spotlight off Jesus and I don’t know how to gently put it back. I seem to only know how to use a sword and sledge and I don’t have the patience to work at stripping away 10 years of weak, watered-down-Jesus, death-by-doctrine seminary taught preaching that blocks my view of Jesus. I just want Jesus back and I want him back NOW!!! It that too much to ask of a Christian church???

    All I know is that I’m unwilling to go quietly, to passively sheepishly numbly accept where we are. So, without any tools, without any training, without the proper attitude, here I go.

  2. Daniel Semsen

    Wow. Chad & Bill…congrats. You have experienced the kind of camaraderie and community that people yearn for–Christian or not. It’s interesting that you’ve experienced that level of relationship in one of your darkest times. That’s really cool…at least from the outside looking in. I envy you–partly, and also I don’t…hence this crazy paradox of which you speak.

    How was album sales this Sunday?

    I also blogged and linked to your iTunes, so maybe something will come of that.
    Look for a sudden explosion of your digital sales…or not…

  3. David

    This is my post.

    It’s not about you

    I was reading a blog the other day and have contemplated the subject for a few days now. The following is a quote.

           “God told me two years ago to do something, and I did it. I completed the task. I finished the race. I fought a good fight. I can say, without hesitation, that I obeyed Him.
    In the end, at least thus far, it hasn’t gone “My” way, or at least in the direction that I thought it should. The end result has seemed like it in no way justifies the sweat, blood, and tears that I invested. I felt like I was at the end of a big fat cosmic, “Eff You! See ya sucka!”

    It made me reflect of one of the characteristics of God.

    God wants us all to obey Him. He doesn’t leave any doubt that when we do that there will be this huge reward nor will there be satisfaction for ourselves. It is in the obedience that God is glorified. God doesn’t need our help to accomplish what ever it is that He wants done. What God does want is our lives. Lives that are totally devoted to His cause, to His glory, to his work.

    One only has to look at the life of Jonah to find this characteristic and see it unfold before us. Jonah new what God wanted from him. Jonah knew that God could easily accomplish the task without him. Jonah knew that in the end what God wanted would come to fruition. Yet he rebelled. Jonah ran. After some time (in the belly of a great fish) Jonah relented and obeyed God’s call on His life.

           Jonah 3:3
    Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city–a visit required three days.

    Jonah preached the news that God had laid on his heart.  He didn’t have to do much convincing and the city changed.

           Jonah 3: 5
            The Ninevites believed God.
            10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their   evil ways, he had         
            compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

    At this point I think Jonah knew it wasn’t about him and his obedience.

    Jonah 4: 1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” 4 But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

    Even in his anger, Jonah realized it was all about God.

    The characteristics of God. Graciousness, compassion, and…

    Let us never forget when we are following the call of God and being obedient to His call, it is not about us.

    It is all about giving Glory to God.

  4. Zack

    I’m confused, Chad. This morning, I read a well-worded “rebuttal” to David’s post. Now, it’s gone.

    What gives?

  5. Chad Post author

    A little birdie persuaded me that I may have misinterpreted David’s comments as adversarial, when he was intending to be in harmony with what I was saying. I decided to pull my comments until later, when I had some time to rethink and restate.

    As long as I’m here, David, would you mind sharing the intent of your post?

    My first thought was that it sounded like some sort of rebuke of what I was feeling / thinking / etc. Am I wrong?

  6. June

    The only thing that makes me twitchy is your claim that “most Christians” can’t handle what you described. Perhaps you’re right, but I dunno…I must have great friends…or maybe I’ve just got avoiding those kinds of folks down to an art. It seems to me that most Christians can both handle and empathize with what you’re thinking and feeling.

  7. David

    actually Chad, I agree with you. I too have followed God’s lead. I fought the cal much like Jonah did. I finally listened, did what I felt God was asking me to do, thought I was finished, and sat waiting for a reward, or a smile, or a pat on the head, and a job well done, from God. Never happened. Grrrr As I prayed about my dismay and or anger, I realized that what God had asked me to do wasn’t about me at all.
    A man with an ego, or at least one that likes to be fed (like mine) just didn’t get it at first.
    No, I wasn’t adversarial at all. Just witnessing to what God taught me when I thought the battle was over.

  8. Chad Post author

    June, I’ll rephrase.

    Most Christians I know.

    Most Christians I know are made profoundly uncomfortable with a (former) Professional Christian expressing doubt / grief / any sort of spiritual trauma. It always feels like a discussion intended to make sure my doctrine stays pure, rather then allowing for the process to make some sort of something resembling headway.

    I have flashed back to a former boss (not the one who caused all the current trauma, but caused plenty in his own day) and remembered a statement he used to make that rang hollow even back then. He used to say, “I care about who you are, not just what you can do.” I have found the exact opposite to be largely true in this process. Even those who have the best of intentions, who love me the most; strike me as threatened, spiritually speaking, by what I have had to say. Everyone’s quick to point out that God didn’t abandon me, complete with chapter and verse as a backup, but only a handful have actually taken a few moments to just listen before they launch into their rebuttal… ironically kind of like I did this morning with David. :(

  9. Chad Post author

    David -

    Sorry to have misread you, then. Just so you know, it was difficult to discern where you were coming from. Perhaps it’s just the headspace I’m in, but it felt as if you were in the hunt for a debate. :)

  10. David

    Kind of glad I missed that one Chad.

    I write a Sunday morning mail that goes out to over 600 i post it at sundaymorningmail.wordpress.com It is what God has called me to do for over three years now. and trust me, I have tried to quit. I have felt abandoned and even have tried to quit. So I canempathise with your feelings.

  11. June

    I don’t get David. But then, ’round these parts, I’m sportin’ the lowest IQ.

    Chad, I think I really have gotten quite good at 1) not sharing anything of significance with anyone I don’t think will at least somewhat ‘get it’ and 2) ignoring well-intentioned but utterly moot and/or ill-informed or fear-filled comments of my fellow brethren. Perhaps this skill is a perk that comes with being closer to 40 than to 30. (Or, maybe it has more to do with a low IQ.) Also, for whatever reason, I have no delusions about anyone in “full-time ministry” being anything other than the struggling slobs we all are. I suppose that’s also why it doesn’t throw me when Christians flounder, per se. (Not saying that you are fishy-like. I’m just sayin’.) I guess what I’m saying is that I’d think your were a little freaky-deaky if everything was just falling into place like dominoes. Thay would just be so……..unbiblical. And you getting all wigged out just seems like part of the whole growing up process.

    It’s so nice that this is a blog. I would never, ever, ever, ever tell you in person to “just grow up.” (I’m not saying that here either, but it sure sounds like it!)

  12. Chad Post author

    Here’s the thing… I’m pretty certain that I need to grow up a bit.

    I’m also extremely certain that I’ve got a few things about church life pegged squarely to the wall. There are some things, at least locally, that I have to say that nobody wants to hear, and it has as much to do with the rest of the church growing up as it has with me growing up.

    I’ve had people, alleged grown-ups, look me right in the eye and tell me that I was the pillar of the church for two years. Good grief, the other night, my own mother told me that I was more responsible for spiritual growth in her life than any other person.

    I then tell them that we’re poised for a new reformation, that church structure is badly damaged and hurtful to pastors and only slightly resembles an Acts church, and they tell me that I need to grow up.

    Which is it? Am I the prophet with insight from the Holy Spirit or a whiny kid? They seem to want it both ways, and I just don’t want to let them do it, because I think I was placed there for their maturation as much as my own.

  13. aly hawkins

    [quote comment="135266"]Which is it? Am I the prophet with insight from the Holy Spirit or a whiny kid? They seem to want it both ways, and I just don’t want to let them do it, because I think I was placed there for their maturation as much as my own.[/quote]

    Here’s my very best advice, my friend: Don’t believe your press. Taking your cues from everybody else will only make you crazier.

    In one of my favorite books of all time, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott warns against listening to KFKD, the radio station that plays in each of our heads. In one ear, we’re serenaded by the smooth jazz of self-aggrandizement. In the other, we’re lambasted by the rapcore death metal of self-loathing.

    Neither one is the truth.

    Don’t let the church folks — or your mom, for that matter (love you, Teri!) — tune your radio for you. (And also try to be aware when you’re listening too long to one ear or the other.) You’re not the best there’s ever been, and you’re certainly not the worst. Be okay with that.

  14. Daniel Semsen

    It gets pretty emotionally exhausting to tell people over and over again that they need to change, only to have them openly mock you with their complete apathy and/or disregard for your passion and the inspired truths you speak.

    Once upon a time I made a decision to move on from a position where I felt like this was happening over and over again, and the senior pastor told me that he thought it would be more detrimental to the church if I left than if HE left. (He had been there for decades). I thought to myself–”Then why aren’t you LISTENING TO ME!?!?”

    Eventually everything worked out really well in the long run…but it’s really hard to live in that place for an extended period of time. It’s OK for a while, but eventually you just want to give up.

    You-me+wifes. Dinner on us. You pick the place. Soon.

  15. June

    Chad, you are not responsible for ANY of my spiritual growth.

    I just thought you should know that.

    Otherwise…what Aly said.

    (I’m sure I haven’t the foggiest what it’s like to be in “leadership” at a church. For this I’m quite grateful indeed.)

  16. aly hawkins

    Just to clarify (because sometimes it’s hard to tell without facial expression and tone of voice): I feel terrible for you. Feeling like you’ve got something to say that’s worth listening to and having everybody tell you to shut the hell up is a stinky, stinky thing. But other people’s response (positive or negative) to your truth-telling doesn’t change the fact that it’s the truth — especially if you know in your bones that God’s given you that something to say.

    I’m trying (in the crotchety old-friend way) to encourage you not to be too concerned with other people’s junk. You don’t need it.

  17. michael lee

    Chad, I say this as a friend, and as your dear brother in Christ, but I think your problem is you just don’t have enough faith.

    Have you tried reading your bible and praying more? If you did, I think you’d find that God is there for you, through the midst of the storm, like eagles wings. Remember, those deeper footsteps in the sand are where he carried you. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, and his burden is easy. Practice the fruits of the spirit, and just wait on the Lord.

    Also, have you thought about joining a small group? When Jesus founded the church, it was his intent that all of your problems be solved through forced intimacy with socially awkward people in your same general age-and-stage of life.

    Go Team Jesus!

  18. June

    Chad, perhaps it’s that you’ve invited Jesus O’Christ into the entryway of your heart, but not the living room.

    (This was the presentation I heard at Black Lake Bible Camp, circa 1981. For reals.)

    No Irish deity likes to be left in the entryway Chad. Give O’Christ a comfy seat on the sofa and all your troubles will go away. That’s the Christian experience: trouble-free. And skinny.

  19. Zack

    Yes! Finally! I’m always crossing my fingers that these types of posts devolve into this type of sarcasm! I love you guys…

  20. Leoskeo

    I don’t know you but I agree, sometimes it feels shitty to be doing what God asks. I think that is the Hebrew translation from Elijah to God. I did what you asked and it felt shitty. God told him to take a nap and eat some food. After 27 years of this stuff I can honestly say that I am rarely what we make me out to be. I am not as evil as some would have you believe nor am I as holy as others would think. What I am is a simple jar filled with an amazing treasure. I am okay with that…usually…on most days. On the days I am not, God still likes me, still uses me and reminds me that Jesus said, Father if I don’t have to take care of this shit I would rather not…but whatever you want. then he died. Thanks for sharing your insides with us. Sorry if this comes across preachy, don’t mean it to.

  21. Ash

    I’ve been living a certain version of this for a while now and the best I can say is that sometimes people and situations change and sometimes they do not but moving on is always a bitch. There is peace.

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