I was inspired by a recent women’s event at Asbury United Methodist Church to think on my own spiritual journey, and if I had my own pearls of wisdom, or “pearls of faith” to pass on, what would they be? It simply comes down to one pride-swallowing admission: Thank you, Lord, for being so much smarter than I am.
I am a planner. I will not say that I am a control freak (who wants to admit that?), but I do like for things to go predictably according to my expectations. No one likes the feelings of disappointment and anxiety that go along with adjustment and, dare I say it, being wrong. But, I am infinitely grateful that my mistakes and well-intentioned plans are overseen by someone who knows so much more than I do about what is right for me.
So, how do we engage in a relationship with God that is not equivalent to that of a petulant child (“Here, Lord, I give this over to you… No, now I want it back… No, you can take it… No, it’s mine.”)? Is it humanly possible to trust God more than we trust ourselves? Larry Crabb suggests there are steps in the spiritual process that allow for pain, change, and healing, all in the journey of bringing us closer to God through self-awareness:
1) “Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth.” We often feel we know what is best, and we establish dreams and hopes in pursuit of that perception. So, we experience disappointment and even grief when they do not go according to plan. Some dreams need to be broken in order to proceed the way God intends.
2) Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.” Looking back, some of my most challenging times in life brought on the strongest, most fervent efforts of soul-searching. I was open to new emotions, insights, and relationships, because I recognized whatever I was previously doing had not worked.
3) “Some dreams important to us will shatter, and the realization that God could have fulfilled that dream pushes us into a terrible battle with Him.” When a most cherished dream is shattered, such as the death of a loved one, our nature is to question God – why did He allow it, or why did He not prevent it? At some point, we experience tension with God.
4) Only an experience of deep pain develops our capacity for recognizing and enjoying true life.” If I always give my daughter candy, she will never learn to like vegetables. Just as we experience lesser wants to our satisfaction, we never know to strive for something greater.
5) “No matter what happens in life, a wonderful dream is available… That experience, strange at first, will eventually be recognized as joy.” The past is not to be recaptured but to be used as a launching pad for new, joyful dreams as God designs.
If we trust God’s dreams for us, not our own, we are open to experience joy. If a dream is shattered, we should feel as we need to feel – hurt, sad, confused – then, we open ourselves to what is next on our path. The more confidence we have in God, the more confidence we have in our own judgment to make sound and faithful decisions for our lives.