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Greg Spiritual Journey

my story…a work in progress

a work in progress (both the writing and the guy)

      Waking from a dream

Have you ever felt like you just “woke up” and all of life becomes clearer for a few moments?

Have you ever felt like you just “woke up” and all of life becomes clearer for a few moments?  Up through college I can remember a handful of “lucid awakenings”…moments when I felt like I got a clearer glimpse of what life was all about…when everything seemed clear.  …Simple thoughts about love, priorities and the meaninglessness of living just to acquire more stuff….simple thoughts that came with life defining clarity.  Unfortunately those times quickly fade into the blur that is life.

A life changing “lucid moment…”
During college I became awake to the fact that many millions go to bed hungry every night and tens of thousands starve to death every day.   That fact…to put it tritely, wrecked my selfish party life.  It’s hard to go back to a mindless search for entertainment when you know someone else is suffering – right now – and you could do something about it if you wanted.   I had the growing conviction that if I could do something and didn’t, I was…to some degree…responsible.

My life goals until then had been to collect awesome experiences, pursue my ambitions, and entertain myself.  I tried to cram as much fun as I could into my weeks.  I attempted romance (attempted = failed).  I had a bit of success with my college rock band.  None of it gave me a sustainable purpose for living.  My soul was empty.   I knew that more and bigger versions of the same was not going to be enough.   (Besides, death would eventually erase it all…me, everything I’d done, everyone I knew.)  It’s depressing to come to the end of your options for fulfillment and purpose by age twenty-two.

On an emotional level, I have to admit (I probably didn’t even realize it at the time) that in spite of my attempted swagger, I lacked a fundamental self confidence…the kind of self confidence a person has when they know at their core that they are loved, accepted, and created for a greater purpose.

I remember looking at my life and thinking how basically selfish I had been to that point and how I was likely to continue in pretty much the same vein.  Unlike the hungry kids who pricked my conscience, I had everything I needed, and I was wasting it on a purposeless self centered life.

I also knew my college idealism and any ideas of changing the world would not last.  Like my lucid moments, my moments of conviction and purpose always faded pretty quickly.  I liked my comforts too much to risk changing.  But I worried…would I ever escape my purposeless fog…or would I just live this way until life was over?

My search goes deeper…

In my search, someone gave me a Bible and I started reading the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus was the most winsome and inspiring person I had ever “met.”  He was also the most formidable.

Jesus was the most winsome and inspiring person I had ever “met.”  He was also the most formidable.  To be honest, he freaked me out.  Yet his words rang true.  And it felt like he was offering real life.  I did a bunch of research to make sure what I was reading was accurate…enough to confirm that I couldn’t just ignore what I was discovering on some technicality (It almost would have been easier if there were no God or if Jesus hadn’t lived).

On the one hand the idea that there was a God felt like great news…the possibility of a life of meaning and purpose…that lasted for eternity.  On the other hand Jesus didn’t “pull any punches.”  He said things that only called my convictions about my selfishness and my drive to protect my own interests into sharper focus.  Things like  “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

Jesus was calling for a life of trust and surrender to my creator…a life where I was free from just serving  myself, free enough that I could actually have energy to care for others.

But what would God do with my life, if I gave it up to him?  If I was “for others” who would be for me? I was terrified by the thought of surrendering to the leading of Another (no matter how good he was…or maybe because he was so good).  I was sobered by the idea that I would have eternity to enjoy or regret my decisions.

But I longed for real life.

I started to try and live the way Jesus described…to apply the things I was reading.  If I read about anger, I’d try and live free from anger.  It rarely worked for long.  I’d inevitably end up getting madder than I had when I wasn’t trying at all (it’s funny how that works).  Then I’d get discouraged and give up on the whole following  Jesus thing for a while.

I stayed in that miserable state for about a year and a half…unsatisfied with the prospect of going back to a life solely dedicated to comfort and entertainment…but too afraid to go forward to something new.

I stayed in that miserable state for about a year and a half…unsatisfied with the prospect of going back to a life solely dedicated to comfort and entertainment…but too afraid to go forward to something new.

it gets better…

But things were changing in my heart…especially my view of myself.

I went from thinking I was a pretty decent person to realizing how deeply my selfishness was rooted (little things like getting  cut off in traffic could raise my ire).  My life looked very different when I compared it with Jesus.  The other thing that was changing was my confidence in my own ability to change on my own.  Like they say in Alcohol Anonymous, I realized I was “powerless to change” my heart on my own.  Ultimately, I became more afraid of what I would do with my life than what God might do with it.

Somewhere during that time I started to understand the “cross”  that is so connected to the story of Jesus.  It started to dawn on me that Jesus didn’t come just to show me how I was supposed to live.  He did that…but then he gave his life in a sort of cosmic exchange for mine.

I finally realized that my inability to change…to become a better person did not disqualify me from knowing God .  It “qualified” me to turn instead to a “third way”  (Way #1 = just go with the selfishness and don’t let it bug you…Way #2 = reform yourself to please God…even if your efforts just make you more cantankerous and self righteous…Way #3 humble yourself and ask God to change you).  In the “third way” he took my selfishness and the shame I had incurred by living so selfishly.  And he gave me his good heart…right inside me.  He offered to plant that same love in my heart that had animated and empowered his life.

Amazing!  (I went with Way #3)

Where to from here?

I don’t want to give the wrong impression.  I still have a very healthy selfish side (pause for peals of confirming laughter of anyone who knows me).

And my life is not nearly as austere as I once thought it would be.  But he has healed my heart in so many ways.  I cannot imagine living alone anymore.  I feel I owe my life partly to my poorer brothers and sisters.  It was their suffering that helped open my eyes to the fact that all was not well with the world…or my soul.

A couple of years ago I had an interesting inner dialogue on one of our “commutes” from Minneapolis to Juarez (26 hours drive time gives you lots of time to think…and watch movies).  My mind wandered to the place in the Bible where it says that the poor will inherit the earth and that one day they will be the rich ones.
“What about us?” I thought…“relatively rich but trying to be decent friends to our poorer brothers and sisters.”  A thought came back.  “You will get to share in what I give them.”

Later when we were visiting with our friends at the orphanage, one of them told of a dream she had recently.  In her dream, there was a huge heavenly banquet and she and her friends from this Mexican slum were seated at the head table enjoying a bounty and a position of honor they had never known on earth.  Then she shared how we…their friends from the North had come and joined them…and they let us share in their bounty.

What a day that will be.

If you have read this far, you know that I enjoy talking about life, God and the spiritual journey.
Wherever you are on your journey, I would welcome a dialogue.
You can contact me at  greg@silker.io