Thursday, October 13, 2005

Seeing what God can do...

...we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
(2 Peter 1:16b, NIV)

[We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. (from "How It Works," in Alcoholics Anonymous, chapter 5)
It is absolutely astonishing to see what God can do.

I mean, fall foliage is wonderful. A baby is God's testimony that the human race should go on. Bumblebees flying defy all we know about aerodynamics. The Grand Canyon is, from what I've been told, grand. But sometimes, God's majesty and transforming power shows up in far more powerful ways.

Like in a diner in Hyde Park, where a friend of mine made the point-blank declaration that he was beginning to believe that there was Something out there that wanted something good for him.

Now, to many folks who have studied deeply the intricacies of Judeo-Christian practices, this may not seem like much. But to see this person, so broken and damaged a few months ago, so bound by intellectual pride and rational determinism and the like, make these kinds of admissions was like seeing Plato wake up and say, "Wow! I can still HAVE a V-8!"

It started simple. "Try believing that there is Something or Someone who wanted you to get sober more than you wanted to kill yourself drinking." "Well, OK, I guess I can believe that." Sometimes the steps were itty-bitty baby steps; sometimes they were quantum leaps of faith...like today. My friend had been struggling - on a number of fronts - physical and emotional challenges.

And it suddenly came to him - "Any one of these problems would have sent me screaming to the bottle four short months ago! And yet, here I am dealing with several of them, and doing it dead sober! There just has to be Something Else that is doing this - because left to my own devices, I'd be loaded, for sure!"

I've been talking to this fellow about my own understanding of God - as a loving, caring, accepting, forgiving, very personal presence. And at the start, my buddy would say, "It's hard to believe that you aren't completely around the bend on this religious crap about God." But he kept showing up, and kept listening. And all I could do was show how this God was working in my life - sometimes against my better judgement.

Just like I was, nearly 15 years ago, he is starting to believe that there is a God - one that is concerned, loving, caring, accepting and forgiving. And in his looks of astonishment, of wonder, and of relief, I can see my own experience echoed and mirrored for me.

In the depths of my despair at having to leave the seminary, several people suggested that there were "other reasons" that I'd been drawn to Chicago: other experiences to have, other people to meet, other spiritual encounters and lessons. But in the last week, I've seen ever more clearly the truths of those promises.

Fifteen years ago, on October 8, 1990, I was fired from my job and escorted from my then-employer's offices. That dismal failure was the blasting cap that started the implosion of my old life, and the beginning of my new life out of the rubble of the old. In the days and weeks following that devastation, I could have never predicted this evening's events. Nor could I have imagined it nearly two years ago, when I was told that ordained ministry had no room for me.

It will be interesting to see what this weekend looks like a year from now...

7 comments:

wilsonian said...

Well Steve, all I can say is WOOOHOOOO!

Im A Foto Nut said...

Congradulations My Friend! 15 years is so totally awesome that I just can't think what else to say.

AnotherLostAngel said...

Personally, Steve, I think that is a testimony to the fallibility, if not foolishness, of man. If you are not cut out for the ministry, I don't know who is. It is thier loss, plain and simple. Maybe thier criteria is arcane knowledge of the bible, or hyper-intellectual ability to postulate esoteric arguments from the old and new testiment....(I never use the word scripture..the word rubs me the wrong way) and perhaps you are lacking a bit there in thier eyes...certainly not in mine...but to me, the reason one makes a good minister is sensitivity, selflessness, empathy, compassion, and the personal legitimacy that can only be bestowed upon you by one's own battlescars.....that you are not just some utopian, belive in the lord and all will be rosey neophyte...but one who has struggled, fought, and found the strength to perservere...Those are what make one spiritually fit, or at least well suited, to spend one's life in service to others...Your denial by the powers that be just re-affirm to me that The lords will, if there is such a thing, is distorted, if not disregarded, disrespected and denied, when human hands are laid upon it, and human minds take it upon themselves to claim they know it, and that they have some type of special insight to it that the rest of us lack, which makes them "uniquely qualified" to interpret and dispense God's wisdom among us "little folks."

You keep walking that path, my friend. The road will rise up to meet you. I am sure of that.

peter

Trudging said...

Hi found you when I searched for "drunken horse thief." Great post and congratulations of 15 years.

Graham said...

Congratulations, Brother Steve. Fifteen years is a big milestone. One day at a time.

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

Indeed.

I have breakfast on Saturday mornings with a close friend. I was saying how 5 years ago I never would have dreamt that I'd toss away my career aspirations to work in homeless shelter. If I had so little foreknowledge of my own life 5 years ago it's the height of folly - and more than a little arrogance - to think I know what's coming down the pike in the next 5 years. Two rock-star quotes came out of that conversation - John Lennon saying, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" and Jerry Garcia's "What a long, strange trip it's been."

On another note, your conversation with your friend in Hyde Park reminded me once again of the potency of that chapter in the Big Book, "We Agnostics". Reading it did me a world of good, and should be required reading for spiritual smartiepants everywhere.

Oh, and anotherlostangel. What he said. But "ordained" ministry has no room for you? Ah, hell - ain't you ministering now?

Hesterman said...

I am lifted up by your robust faith, and the way you can put it right on the line. The Christ in your life is potent and manly, and you reflect his light. It is no accident that you bring so many other men to know Him. God has truly touched you with his exalted wisdom. Keep writing and teaching us, my brother.