I love a poem where each read yields a new nuance… a clearer grasp of the whole… a loosening of thought in other directions.
“Barking”... speaks to me about freedom as well as peace. Transitions in life are expected… including the unexpected ones.
It also prods me to think clearly about who I am.
In junior high school, I found myself on the outside looking in. It was a curious tension: never accepted among the popular kids… always wanting to be, but never happening. It led to angry.
It was a long time before I learned the word “introvert.” It applied to me. So, there’s always been this natural bent toward feeling like an outsider… and being a social misfit. It took longer to see “introvert” as not inherently bad.
Introverted has colored my subsequent walk in Christ. I have learned much about myself… about people in authority—particularly teachers… and about a God of steadfast love whose passion is our maturity and peace.
...predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Romans 8:29
Whether to blame the passion of youth, sinful pride, the wholeheartedness of new believers—or all of the above—we bought into the rigidity, narrowness, and bad-spiritedness that inevitably accompanies the kind of fundamentalist churches which were our early roots.
Why did we do that? My own answers still don’t satisfy me.
I admit it… life on the inside was easier at first. But did I really want to let other people do my thinking for me? I would have said no. Yet, I learned to chime in on the amens… my timing and volume quickly improved. Repetition bred a growing confidence regarding the stuff I was “amening.”
I could say, “It happens to the best of us.” David Brainerd (1718 –1747) was a missionary to Native Americans. He lived a lifetime in less than 30 years. In his preface to Brainerd’s memoirs, Jonathan Edwards offered a kind defense regarding a brief period in the missionary’s life as a young convert:
It is not at all to be wondered at, that a youth, a young convert, one who had his heart so swallowed up in religion, and who so earnestly desired his flourishing state and who had so little opportunity for reading, observation, and experience should for a while be dazzled and deceived with the glaring appearances of mistaken devotion and zeal.
But I’m not looking for justification. I desire forgiveness. My approach to ministry was sincere—but often hurtful in ways I wish I could undo. Potentially long-lasting friendships--inside and outside of ministry--were squandered… opportunities for learning and deep fellowship were disdained.
Curiously, the changes I have gone through are not doctrinal in nature. Reconsidering confessions of faith I studied 45 years ago, I would probably sign them with the same gusto today. Call it an attitude problem… poor pastoral skills… manipulation… peer pressure… legalism… authoritarianism… specious convictions… one-upmanship… us vs. them… or whatever…
When I come in contact with it today, I react at a visceral level.
Oh, To Think
I was returned to my default mode—isolated for 40+ years in a foreign country. It took years to sort through those layered idiosyncrasies blurring the pristine beauty of the Gospel and its outworking in regenerated hearts.
My Journey Out From Under
If I were asked to return to where I started… I, too, would say no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain. And now there’s no chain.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' John 8:31-32
Yes...! As of July 5, 2020, my book is now available on Amazon.com.
It's a new book about an old problem: the cross and the crown… the Gospel and politics… do they mix? Should they mix?
If my words generate some reflection and healthy conversation—as in more light and less heat—I will be satisfied.
For feedback or questions, feel free to use the email link below.
Greg grew up in Menomonee Falls, WI. His ministry began in 1976: 5 years in Central America, 37 in Mexico. Church planting and discipleship have been his passion.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." -Matthew 13:44
GREG'S other BLOG
Concise devotions in Spanish and English, along with some lengthier essays… Designed for personal spiritual growth and to help anyone studying English or Spanish as a second language to improve their skills… Rev 14:6