When getting out of the boat means stepping forward…or stepping back.
I was meeting with my counselor a couple of days ago (yes-I go once a month, 3 hours at a time. If you are a preacher and you don’t, you should start now.), and was floored by the consistency of what God has been teaching me this last 6 months or so. That’s part of the beauty of developing this rhythm–when you evaluate your life in monthly blocks, you get better perspective on patterns and trends.
What I saw clearly is how many times in recent months I have felt called to take a step that was technically small but felt. With each of those steps, I’ve marveled at how quickly God has responded to these mundane acts of obedience that carried such weight at the time. Getting off some forms of media and streamlining communication in my life. Giving up being editor of Youth and Discipleship Leadership, a great honor given to me by my denomination. Making an open appeal for sacrificial giving last weekend (4th of July weekend!) at Renovatus, not because of a particular need but because God really impressed me that is how He wants to set our people free from financial bondage.
Each of these were counter-intuitive steps, like trying to run through quicksand, because all were counter-intuitive and not what I would otherwise choose to do. And each act was met with immediate blessing. One meant freeing up open space for love and creativity, making my ministry fun for perhaps the first time. One meant opening up critical opportunities I know I’m called to but I otherwise couldn’t have handled. The last one meant a record obliterating weekend of giving on 4th of July weekend–on an invitation to give which people had not been previously prepared for. All were uncomfortable, but all brought me an encounter with God.
Each of these were acts of stepping out of the boat to meet Jesus out walking on the water. Sometimes that means breaking out of what’s comfortable and meeting Jesus in something new, sometimes it means stepping back out of something you just aren’t called to do. I’m wondering if for some of us, stepping out of something God has NOT called us to do is actually a more difficult form of getting out of the boat than stepping out into something new. Sometimes God creating something new starts with us cooperating with Him in undoing something, you know? Both acts require faith and obedience, and both acts yield tangible, beautiful fruit. Sometimes the Spirit compels you to go, sometimes He constrains you from going. Either way, those small steps of obedience bring big encounters with God.
I drove out of the parking lot at the counseling center with tears in my eyes, listening to a version of Amazing Grace by U2 and the Soweta Gospel Choir. I had to make a u-turn to get on the interstate, and got behind a junky old minivan with a Church of God bumper sticker, written in Spanish for a local Church. Every step of obedience and every step back out of obedience has brought something of my own redemption story full circle, so that omen of my heritage was all too fitting. Then it was not crying, but weeping.