Those who know me can tell you I am a contemplative person who likes to look back on life and see where I’ve been, while still moving forward. The problem is that sometimes I look back and end up walking in circles. Yeah, it’s not always a healthy thing to look back. Kind of like when you’re riding a bike and look back to learn you are pulling the bike into oncoming traffic. It could hurt. Lately I’ve been thinking about the last seven years of living in north Texas. I’ve met some great people along the way, but life hasn’t always been a great ride either.
Some background: We (my family and I) retired from the Air Force on December 1, 2004. The two and a half months prior to that date, we spent taking terminal leave, which included us going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (awesome sight), driving from Colorado to Texas, living with my in-laws, Paige finding a job, the boys entering new schools, buying a house, my finding a job, and working on my MBA.
Between then and now life has truly been a rollercoaster ride, or several rides, at that. This is especially true when it comes to finding a community of faith, and now I’m sick to my stomach from all the twists and turns on those rides, but there is a cure. It starts with telling my story from the theme park perspective.
Buckle up: The first adventure started out wonderfully. The folks on the ride were precious, but it seemed to only be going in circles with very little adventure. Kind of like the kiddy train. So, my family and I felt called to lead our own little adventure. Man it was awesome! We had a good mix of people on this journey with us who liked the postmodern/emergent feel because they could creatively express their hearts without facing judgment. I believe they were genuinely loved. We all enjoyed the experience of the slow rise to the top only to see there was a big drop on the other side. What seemed like a smooth ride soon spun me in circles, while at the same time pushing me up and down the track. Finally, the ride came to a complete stop and the candles blew out of our emergent project. The supportive partners wanted us to report our success with numbers, as well as increase those numbers, but all we wanted was to travel along side others as they sought after and discovered a Jesus they’d never experienced before. The pressure was also on us to answer “why” our project didn’t look like other more established projects. My thought was, “Why did we want to create something that already existed?” So, we uprooted ourselves and moved on.
We got in line again, but this time on a different adventure. We also took the idea of our little adventure and inserted it into another at the blessing of the leadership. This had the same type of landscape as the previous, with its climbs, drops, swirls, ups and downs. It was enjoyable as well because we loved and cared for our partners, but as the adventure continued it became more difficult and with a few more bruises. We thought we were on a missional journey, but after an abrupt stop I was made to realize the emerging expectations from leaders in this partnership. Those expectations were not in harmony with the vision the Spirit had given to us. The leadership was displeased that I had turned down an opportunity to join them. I was also asked to tell my wife she could’t ride up front anymore. The fun of that ride was gone and so was the momentum of our own little adventure. I discovered that this really wasn’t a missional journey…only something with a missional label slapped on it.
Well, I took my bruises and pain to the next adventure. Yes, I took my family for one more ride. This time it started out nice and slow with beautiful, organic scenery that was very intimate and refreshing. The leader was one cool cat. The ride was slower than the others, but it seemed as we kept moving forward it was being pulled in two directions. Suddenly, it derailed and our somewhat enjoyable ride was cut short. It was such a tough experience because this ride broke down and was dismantled. Some of the cars were put on another track, while some of us were left standing and staring at the remaining cars. We wondered if we could put together a new ride. It never happened.
So, it’s been several months since the last true adventure. We’ve walked around the theme park and tried a few other rides and none of them were right. Something was missing, or the leader was taking his folks where we weren’t willing to go, or at least where I wasn’t. We tried, but because of my personal issues we’ve stayed away from the theme park as a whole, while humanity passes by unbeknownst to them that our world had crumbled. Sure I can blame others for the stuff we’ve been through because of their part in the process, but in the end it all falls on how I’ve reacted to each situation.
Retrospect: There was a spiritual wilderness I unintentionally led my family into on this journey. Jesus was before me asking that I follow Him with complete abandon and not worry if I looked the fool. He’s been asking me to be the branch that abides in Him, the Vine. He’s telling me to go and make disciples. I am discovering that the noise from other leaders got in the way of my hearing that message….the voice of the Shepherd.
Not about me: Now, there have been some amazing people we’ve encountered on this journey, whose friendships are cherished to this day. Because of the relationships developed through our own church plant, I’ve had the honor to officiate the weddings of three incredibly beautiful couples. I witnessed several people embrace baptism as they entered their journey with Christ. I have seen people endure the struggles of some sort of addiction to find healing in Christ. The Lord taught me to make myself available to strangers who needed someone to listen as they wrestled with their pain and struggle. Probably one of the most humbling things any person can engage in is the privilege of discipling/mentoring/challenging others to follow the ways of Christ. The Lord has been gracious to allow me that opportunity, even in the midst of the wilderness.
All the while, my three awesome, rock-n-roll sons are growing up to be loving, creative and giving young men. Like with all teenage boys there are issues, but none that will diminish my love for them. Each of them is brilliantly talented musically. Each has his spiritual gifts from an amazing God. Each of them wants to change the world in their own way. My prayer is that it is always for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Finally, there is my most amazing and beautiful wife. She continues to endure my stubbornness and stupidity. I don’t listen to her enough and as a result I continue to march around the mountain with my tail tucked. I continue to wrestle with my own demons. I owe her my life for loving me when I haven’t been loveable. For trusting me when I wasn’t trustworthy. For finding beauty in me when I have been ugly and mean.
Transition: So, seven years have passed, and while my intent is never to use scripture out of context, or for my own gain, it feels as though I have a Deuteronomy 15:1 moment before me. There is this sense that God is saying, “I’ve cancelled your debt through my Son. I’ve taken away your shame and blame. It’s time for a fresh start with a new focus on living a life of gospel intent that is soaked in grace…like my Son.”
Will future adventures be chaotic, risky, painful and bruising? Without a doubt, but this time we need to take that experience and use it as motivation to engage the marginalized people where they are with all their issues. We must do all this while keeping in mind that we too bring our own issues. So, we begin the journey of finding another adventure (local church) in hopes of discovering a community that embraces the marginalized…and us.
I leave you with a final request…
Wanted: A missional and incarnational community of faith that is local to the Burleson/Fort Worth, Texas area. My family and I hope to find a family that will accept our quirks, imperfections and egalitarian view. Why the egalitarian view? Because in the end I don’t want to be “that” guy. Yeah, that guy that God asks, “Why didn’t you let my daughters play in my kingdom?” Therefore, we are looking for a community that understands the Lord Jesus can and will lead His local church through any and all of his disciples. We want to be on mission with God by immersing ourselves into the fabric of the Spirit’s movement in the lives of humanity for the sake of the kingdom. If you know of such a community in the Burleson/Fort Worth area, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not opposed to partnering in planting the gospel and growing a community of followers/disciples of Jesus either, but it would have to be done with a team willing to endure the long haul of growing together in missional/incarnational life. The ministry of reconciliation is before us and the spiritual well-being of humanity is at stake here. Grace and peace…