journeying toward a new story

“The process of growth is brutal.”  That may be the single most honest quote in this book.  Part of the realization that comes with seeing that this story is not about me and it’s all about Him, is that as I learn and grow and play my role in His story, it may come through great accomplishments or great pain.  

Tim states on page 48:  “When a person decides to embark on a journey, he or she begins an undertaking whose destination and outcome is often as unpredictable as it is unseen.  In fact, not only do we often not know where we are going, we do not know who we will become or whether we will even recognize ourselves at the end of our paths.”  While I’m not at the end of my journey, nor am I any sort of expert on where I am in the journey, I can attest that 15 years ago, I can’t imagine the path that I’ve traveled or where I now sit.  I’ve drifted from a conservative denominational stance to one that might not even be considered genuine from that same point of view.  

This journey has come at great cost.  Having founded my faith in a conservative upbringing, it was very similar to the realization that Neo encountered in The Matrix when he chose the pill that opened his eyes to what else was really going on around him.  No longer was I able to continue on that same path.  No longer was I content to ignore the rest of the story.  And that left me understanding how Moses must have felt as he headed for the desert – a nomad, that doesn’t fully understand where he’s going, but insisting on being faithful even if that means not having a home to which he was accustomed.  

Much like Tim’s description of finding a few people that found themselves on this same path, I was fortunate enough not to journey by myself.  I couldn’t find a church that was willing to embrace this honest journey, but my friend Art had discovered this conversation that was beginning and was willing to let me catch up so we could walk part of our paths together.  While much of that time is remembered as painful for me, I’m forever thankful for having a friend that understood and didn’t think I was any crazier than he or this group of people scattered across the world that were experiencing the flaws in the systems in which we led.  

For me, the transition from a place of discontentment began with a community outside of the church that was simply organic.  There was not intentional goals set to bring us together, but it happened none the less.  There weren’t pre-planned lessons or opportunities to share our stories and forge a bond, it just happened as we spent time together.  Our community grew out of spending time together.  This group of people reminded me of what the church does right – when we don’t screw it up.  It allows us to share our lives with each other.  It allows us to cry together, and laugh together and everything in between.  

I never once felt like I was distanced from God during that time in my life, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever be content to sit in a church again.  And for a guy that knew he was called to a leadership position within the church since he was nine, made for a confusing time.  Much like Tim’s account of crying out to God, “surely, this can’t be all that you intend”, my path changed directions.  Or at least I began gaining a clarity that had escaped me.  And I began looking for a place in a church again.  And as he states on page 62:  “I was tired of the via negativa, the negative way whereby you determine what something is, or what you believe about something, by what that something is not, I wanted to be for something, not just against something.”  

At this point, my story and my wife’s story flip-flopped.  While my journey began out of an intellectual search, her’s was triggered by a series of emotional losses.  Because I would tell her story from a second-person viewpoint, I’m going to leave it at saying we agreed to give the organized church one last chance and try a small gathering of people that seemed to be sharing life more than building programs.  This group, at a point of their own pain and vulnerability, changed my life.  

It was my time at Mosaic Jacksonville that brought on my kairos.  It didn’t happen on a given Sunday when a certain message was shared.  It didn’t happen through one of the worship sets that flipped a switch in me.  It just happened along the way as I began to share my life with a few guys.  That has taken me through an ordination process that I had all but given up on, allowed me to minister in dozens of churches and denominations around NE Florida and SE Georgia with a group of people that are more concerned with a healthy church that seeks God than a budget or program, and led me back to a congregational experience on Sunday morning.  

Fifteen years ago, I thought I knew where I was going.  Looking at how differently that portion of my journey has gone, I have no idea where God is going to lead.  As I finish this particular portion, I’m left realizing that most of what I’ve written remains from a first-person viewpoint and thus suggesting that my journey has been about me.  To me, it’s very real and has had a profound effect on me.  But what I must also recognize is that my path may be to intersect yours.  And that may be the plan He has.  Because no matter how much it feels real to me, there really is this bigger story going on where my name won’t even merit recognition in the credits at the end. 

What story are you telling?  Is it the same one you’ve always told or are you on a path to something new?  

much love,
– mark