Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Mature Disciple: Part 2


"The hurrieder you go the behinder you get." ~old Quaker saying

A good time was had by all with the Marva Dawn at Laity Lodge this past weekend. She is one feisty, crackerjack of a lady, and a joy-filled, humble one too. More on that later, but suffice to say our souls were nourished by her teaching and we had a long conversation with Charlie Peacock and his wife Andi about their Art House that warmed our hearts. We also played a mean game of dice late into the night Saturday evening. I won--as you can tell from the picture featuring the lovely Phaedra Jean, Steven Purcell and his delightful fiancée, Amy Hodge.

Here then is the second part of the sermon I gave on June 1. Again, stories were told but not written down, only spoken.

A DISCIPLE OF JESUS IS MATURE AND FULLY ASSURED

#2: Talks to Jesus

Journal entry, summer 1997: “I’m more excited about the cause of Christ than I am about Christ himself. I’m happy to work hard for God. I don’t mind working hard. But please don’t make me sit with him and talk about emotional things, intimacy things. They make me uncomfortable. I don’t know how to do it. And at bottom I don’t trust that He’ll satisfy the deepest places of my heart.”

Again Kyle Miller enjoins me: “David, talk to God. Talk to Him. Talk to Jesus. Talk to Him about everything—your exams, your car, your parents, soccer, your friends, your ambitions, your body—at any time. And definitely talk to Him when you’re about to give in to temptation; especially then. Right as you’re giving into temptation, talk to Jesus.” Today he would say to me, “Talk to Him right after you’ve had a fight with your wife. That’s the best time.”

It’s amazing how quickly and frequently we don’t want to. What would I rather do when hurt?

- Either: “I want to figure it out on my own first.”
- Or: “I want you [a person nearby] to figure it out for me.”

Yet Karl Barth calls out to us: Only God who made you can reveal to you who you really are, who He really is, who others really are. Jesus is the Mediator.

The church fathers had a phrase to describe a life of every day, open-hearted walking with God: en loco Dei, “on location with God.”

In such a life we discover our true nature. George MacDonald, “Who can give a man his own name? God alone.” What our hearts deeply long for is to be given our own true name, to know what we are and why we are on this earth and how to become fully alive.

In the end, the point is simple but often so difficult to apply. We must learn the habit of talking with Jesus about everything, at all times, no matter how small or silly or embarrassing or difficult, whether you're stressing about what you're going to wear or your computer is suffering a hissy-fit or your plans for the day are going all wrong or you're simply enjoying a stroll with your spouse or friend and you feel this simple joy stirring in your heart: Talk to Jesus. Welcome Him in as an every-day Person in your life.

John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”


#3: Traveling Companions

This may come as a surprise to you: I had no close guy friends in my 20s. None. I lived detached from male friendship from high school into my early thirties. Why? I didn’t trust easily. And I was looking for the elite friendship (“the reincarnated Inklings”)—the standard that honestly nobody would ever be able to meet, not even I.

The Jedi Kyle Miller speaks a third time: “David, beware of the Cool David Christian Guy Stuff,” which was only a mask for arrogance and false security.

Honestly, I don’t think I knew any more how to cultivate deep male friendship. It had been a long time since I’d experienced it, back with Nathan and Josh Sanford, Terri Macdonald, and Matt Henry in Russellville, Arkansas.

My predicament: I was for people, but I didn’t know how to be near. I could make things “happen” but not be intimate.

The problem, at last, was this: My self-sufficient grand plans were causing me to hurt the people closest to me—family and girlfriends—by sins of omission and commission. When it happened often enough I began to break. Eventually I started feeling the weirdest feeling: loneliness. And the longer I headed in this direction, I realized, the more I was becoming afraid of letting people know me, the real me hiding inside.

The turning point: I became exhausted. And I finally said to my friends, “I need you.” I was finally letting people in, letting myself be loved. It was a huge relief.

Dearly beloved, every one of us needs a few good, kindred traveling companions.

History calls out to us with encouragement:

- Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego
- Jesus and twelve apostles
- Jesus and the three
- Epaphras and St. Paul: Col. 4:7-9, 11-13!
- Franciscan monks and sisters of Charity
- The Cambridge 7
- The 5 Martyrs in Ecuador
- The Inklings
- The Beatles
- My high school buddies
- Mike & Jeffrey
- Phaedra

Traveling companions are those friends with whom you can relate openly and deeply about your life. They’re the ones that love you with their feelings, their wills, and their time. They’re the ones who provide you honest feedback about how you are coming across to people.

My friends, it’s not just that it’s hard to live the Christian life on your own, it’s that you can’t. You by yourself don’t have the resources. And the deep transformation of your soul that will make you an increasingly refreshing presence to others cannot come about through casual or occasional or small-talk exchanges with people; not a once-a-month lunch date or weekly bible study. It can only happen in rich community with a few people who call out your truest self and help you identify your “self-protective sinfulness as it occurs” (Crabb, Understanding, 205, italics his).

The point with all this? As Rick Van Dyke put it to me the other night, God accepts you as you are, but He doesn’t leave you there. So you should treat your friends: love them as they are but for God’s sake don’t leave them there. Ask them to be your kindred traveling companion. Ask for it. Choose it. Be willing to sacrifice for the sake of deeply satisfying friendships. Pray for them.

If I had to identify only three things that I come back to over and over and over again, it would be these:

1) Am I teachable?

2) Am I talking to Jesus about everything?

3) Do I have good traveling companions?


As I look throughout biblical history and Christian history and the people who’ve loved and influenced me along the way, from my family to my teachers to my friends to my wife and to many of you here, I see these three things keep popping up.

They’re what make, I submit to you, a mature believer—integrated, whole, holy, humble, confident, deeply at home with himself, with others, and with God, bearing fruit, continually growing into what he truly is, and full of unspeakable joy—over a lifelong of obedience in the same direction.

I earnestly commend them to you.

RESPONSE TO THE SERMON
It is often said that the job of a preacher is to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. I’m going to ask three afflicting questions and speak three words of comfort to allow each of us to receive the word of God in our hearts, and with this we will end.

3 Afflicting Questions:

1. Would you say you are teachable? Would the people around you say that?

2. Are you talking to Jesus about everything? Is there anything you’re afraid to talk to him—or to the Father—or to the Holy Spirit?

3. Who are your kindred traveling companions? Do they know they are your traveling companions? Do they feel invited as such?

3 Words of Comfort:

1. James 4:6. “God gives grace to the humble.” Receive his grace for you today.

2. Ps. 62:8. “Trust in him at all times, O people. Pour out your hearts to him, for God is your refuge.” Pour out your hearts to Jesus. In Him find rest for your souls.

3. Ps. 68:6. “God sets the lonely in families.” Ask and keep asking God to give you good traveling companions.

2 comments:

livingpalm said...

beautiful...
I am catching up on your life this morning. God's timing is good.
so good.
I love that you mentioned Charlie Peacock. I am currently chasing what feels like an impossible dream of booking the Art. Music. Justice Tour he and Sara Groves and Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken are on this fall. I have a huge dream to incorporate that as part of our annual art show and so many "coincidences" seem like they might be "providences" (such as theming the show around Groves' song "Add to the Beauty" and then discovering she is on tour and could be in our city on the exact weekend we had already scheduled the show). But the logistics seem insurmountable. I am in desperate need of Spirit direction and Spirit quickening around me.

w. david o. taylor said...

Thanks, Tamara. I will send upward swishing Holy Spirit prayers for you. I say, go for it!