We serve a very creative and developmental God who uses the disruptions in our lives to shape and mature us—times of failure and transition, moments of questioning, loss, and possibility. Growing up into Christ consists of both long, slow stretches of continuity and more sudden turns of discontinuity. These turns or detours or sidetracks in our stories offer such significant possibilities for who we are, who we are becoming, and how we serve others in Jesus’ name. And if we are walking with people, investing in their development, we must pay particular attention to these periods of confrontation and discontinuity in their life stories; for these transitional seasons often prove to be heightened times of new learning and growth.
As many of you look ahead to the fall start of The Journey in your contexts, I would encourage you to pay attention to people who are in transitions. Recruit folks who are coping with significant life changes. Look for those who may be newly graduated or recently unemployed; men and women who are approaching retirement or wondering about a career change; folks who have been coping with a major loss over the past five years, like the death of a loved one or a divorce or an illness; men or women pondering what their new passion or burden or life-dream has to do with the Lord’s leading; people at mid-life who are being confronted within by a growing dissatisfaction with their life of faith – Is this as good as it gets? The different sorts of pressures and frustrations and losses that are experienced during these times of change and transition provide such fertile soil for a deeper discovery of the Spirit’s personal presence, grace, and direction.
So as you consider who to invite into The Journey process this fall I would encourage to not overlook those who are facing new life chapters… The Journey has consistently provided a good and fruitful space for men and women to sort out with the Lord and other fellow travelers these changes and transitions in their lives.
As I have been thinking and praying about my own life and those around me facing a variety of different life changes Jim Houston’s words have been a timely encouragement and challenge. I leave these wise words with you as a kind of blessing. Dr. Houston writes,
Most of us think of the frustrations and suffering of our life in negative terms. But although these experiences are painful, they can be allowed by God to help us in our growth as persons.
We can so easily fall into the danger of thinking that we know precisely what is good for us. Paul the apostle begged God three times to take an affliction away from him, but God refused. When this happens to us, we may think that God does not care about us. However, God’s silence means that he is showing mercy towards us, rather than indifference. He is educating us in the school of prayer to become familiar with the way he works in our lives. (The Transforming Friendship, 290)
May we each be open to being surprised by the Spirit’s presence, mercy, and guidance in our lives….