Growth Without Growing

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Coming home is supposed to be soothing.  What it is instead is nerve racking and I’m learning to be grateful for being a wreck.

It’s one thing to for me to claim to live by spiritual principles, it’s another to actually live by them.  It’s easy for me to pick up and walk and go to China despite my best senses telling me not to.  It’s easy to tell myself it’s part of my personal adventure.  It’s easy to say it’s part of my journey and it’s for my growth.  I’ve learned it’s easy to eventually go to Nineveh, because, like Jonah, I’ve already learned I’ll end up there anyway.  What I’m still learning is how I arrive is up to me.

When I was in rehab, one of the evening’s panels consisted of a man who shared a very simple message.  It’s one I haven’t forgotten.  He said “God’s will, by sheer virtue of it being God’s will, will always happen.  I can either align myself with His will and go walking along or fight and resist, kicking and screaming while being dragged along backwards.  Either way, I will be going the direction God wants me to go.”  My experience mirrors this.  China was not my first choice.  If you don’t believe me, consider Italy or the French Riviera.  Those are at or near the top of my list.  My list often includes whatever is easy.  I like to say “I want to grow” but whenever I’m presented with the opportunity for growth (being unemployed and potentially without a home in a foreign land two months after I arrived here for instance), my reaction is to run.

The truth is I want to arrive at the result of bigger and better without doing anything to get there.  I want to lose weight and tone and tan but I don’t want to exercise, eat right or spend time in the sun.  My idea of growth is one that doesn’t include any growing.  That laughter I hear is God.  My God has a tremendous sense of humor, but he’s not laughing at my stupidity.  He’s laughing at my irony.

My recent plight of going home without having a home to come home to is no different.  What I lack is faith.  I always have.  My sponsor is fond of saying “Peter, you’re having a crisis of faith.” I’ve heard it dozens of times.  While faith in things working out and coming together and getting better may be easy for you, it’s incredibly difficult for me.  What I specialize in is fear.  If you want to talk about an area of expertise, you’re reading the right piece.  Fear I’m familiar with.  In all its colors and all its shades, fear is a painting that is not in the making that I can create no less.  I can turn blue skies brown.  I can make a sunny day at the beach carcinoma and I can make a first date a divorce.  I’ve done it.  I’ve said “It will never work out” before ever having said “Hello.”

In a very real, the window-of-time-is-quickly-closing, tangible way, this fear/faith dilemma is playing itself out in my head, in my heart and in my life.  Whether I like it or not, in just over two weeks I’ll be back in States looking to spend the night under the nearest overpass or off-ramp.

God has a way of making faith mean something.  Instead of reading about it in a text book and offering up my best regurgitation, God is giving me on the job training.   I suspect that when Daniel was in the lion’s den, he took his faith very seriously.  I would do well to take mine similarly.

What I’ve come to discover isn’t that God always delivers what I want, he will deliver what I need, but what I think I need and what he thinks I need are often quite different.  I say “house”.  He says “humility”.  I say “wife”.  He says “wisdom”.  I say “freedom from fear”.  He says “faith”.

As a friend today rightly suggested, I should go to bed grateful knowing my experiences are adding up to making me happily, but more importantly, usefully whole.  And if being made “whole” is the payoff, maybe pain is the price.

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