My theme for the last two years has been congruence, reminding me to live according to my values and needs. This primarily expresses itself through saying yes only when I really want to say yes, and saying no otherwise. As a go-along-to-get-along kind of guy, I’ve said yes to entirely too many things I would rather have said no to, especially over the last six years or so as we’ve had several huge family crises. They’ve been hard to navigate, especially as I’ve tried to honor my new wife’s needs. It’s been challenging to find the right balance. But in the end, I haven’t been happy, I haven’t been healthy.
This has been hard work. I love the feeling of being on the same team with others and do not enjoy discord. Also, I’m often not fully confident in my relationships, and being out of alignment can feel frightening. But I’ve done better and better at it over the last two years, and I feel much more in command of my life. I see positive outcomes in the places I’ve asserted myself, too.
I need to keep at it. I’m overcoming a lifetime of behavior. But for 2023, something even more important has emerged in my life. I’ve lost my zest for my faith. I want desperately to get it back.
I’m in no danger of losing my faith. I’ve just lost its thread. The last few years of my service as a church elder were rough. We were an inner-city church with all of the problems of poverty. We had a weak bench of people with enough stability and maturity to lead. Everything fell on the elders, and it was a lot to carry.
What did me in was that we opened a day care, which failed. I never wanted us to do it in the first place because I didn’t believe we had the administrative strength to carry it off. I made it quite clear to the other elders how I felt, but in the end they still wanted to do it, and I decided to just go along.
When it failed, it failed spectacularly and consumed us for quite a while. At the end, we were all exhausted and demoralized. Then our longtime pastor decided to retire, and the fellow we chose to replace him didn’t work out. Then the pandemic happened, and we closed our doors for months.
We elders were out of gas. We had given our all, and nobody in the congregation was remotely ready to step up and take our places. Long story short, we deeded everything over to another, much larger, church in our faith tradition who would operate a satellite location of their church out of the building. There’s more to this story that I’ll probably tell someday but in short I left in protest before we completed the transfer, because I didn’t think some of the things the other church did were on the up and up. The other elders were willing to let it go, but I wasn’t. I lived my theme of congruence through that for sure!
I was consumed with all of the things we needed to do, and I found myself attending to spiritual disciplines less and less. In the end, I wasn’t in study or prayer at all. We didn’t attend worship during the pandemic. When West Park reopened, I returned, but I could see my heart wasn’t in it anymore. I felt far away from God.
When I went through my divorce all those years ago, I turned to God in desperation. I came to feel intensely close to him during those years. I could even see and feel him acting directly in my life. I wrote about this a little here. I’ve wanted that closeness back ever since, but I’ve prayed hard that I not need to go through such hardship again to regain it. I want that closeness not because I hit bottom with nowhere else to turn, but because I am pursuing it hard even in good times. This takes persistent effort on my part. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” says James 4:8. With that in mind, my 2023 theme is
🌷 renewal 🌷
This is the second time I’ve chosen this word; the last time was in 2019. Then I was interested in all kinds of renewal, but this year I’m concerned entirely with spiritual renewal.
Margaret and I have placed membership in a church in our faith tradition that’s near our home. It’s the largest church I’ve ever attended, with about 1,000 members. But at this scale, they have the ability to really do things. I’ve been a part of a men’s discipleship group there, which was a real shot in the arm for me. I begin one-on-one discipleship meetings with another man in the church soon. The sermons there have encouraged me, and I’ve returned to prayer and study, albeit haltingly. I’m currently rereading the gospels, with the aid of a good commentary.
I’m not going to make any bold pronouncements on just how else I’ll renew myself spiritually. I’ll feel my way along. I’ll keep rebuilding my spiritual disciplines as best I can. I’ll remain open to opportunity, and to feeling led. In time, all will be well again.