Friday, May 25, 2012

Fertile Ground in a Spiritual Barren Wasteland

Hands down, summer is my favourite season. I love the warm weather; having pedicures and wearing flip flops. I love not having to bring a jacket just in case and I love a change in routine. I thrive on having the option to sleep in (even though I don’t) and have my Man do all the cooking (i.e. barbequing). I love days when the only thing I accomplish is finishing an easy summertime book by the pool. I love my birthday is in July and I stretch out the celebration for the whole month. 

On the West Coast, we’ve started to see signs of summer. Yes, I know many other parts of the country have been experiencing summer for a while already. It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter/spring but it has been rainy and I love to see and feel the warm sunshine. We have a few trips planned – to visit friends in Winnipeg, gather with friends in Whistler and spend a week with the York family in Bamfield.

Yes, summer is a sweet and enjoyable time and I’m looking forward to it and yet I have a confession…my soul feels as barren as prairie plains in February. It doesn’t make sense. The light, easy breezy, summertime feeling I am enjoying is incongruent with the melancholic feeling in my soul. 

I’m not someone people would describe as given to extreme mood swings. Generally I am at home in my sanguine personality; even when I’ve experienced negative life events I retain a love of life that is consistent with the sanguine personality. So why, is my soul downcast within me? 

What troubles me most is my spiritual barren wasteland always follows an intensely close experience with the Lord.  I wonder if it’s just me. Somehow, I don’t think so. I think experiencing melancholic valleys in our spiritual journey is more common than we care to admit to one another.

So what’s a Christian to do, when their soul feels lifeless? The first thing we should do is go to Scripture. But since I am already confessing, I will confess that it’s not the easiest thing to do, at least for me. When I don’t feel like God is close to me, the last thing I want to do is spend time in Scripture. I feel like a fraud; it doesn’t feel right. After a little bit of self-talk (okay, a lot of self-talk), I can convince myself just because I don’t feel God’s presence, past experience has taught me He is always with me. I also remind myself I’ve chosen to believe God at his word and his word says that he will never leave me, nor forsake me. 

Scripture can be elusive, foreign and inhospitable at times but one place to find every gamut of human emotion is in the Psalms and when I’m feeling melancholic, Psalms 42 is my go-to.  The Psalmist echoes my feelings perfectly. The joy of meeting with the Lord, the hunger for the feeling to return, and yet the question of why? Why can our own spirit betray us? Finally, the last verse is where I cling, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

Secondly, accountability works but often instead of confessing to each other, we withdraw. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let’s encourage one another [and be encouraged by others] and all the more as we see the Day approaching. The writer knew that our natural tendency is to remove ourselves from the company of other believers.  Fight the tendency and become involved with someone else. Having or being a mentor is a great place to start. Mentoring helps to keep me focussed. Even if I’m not the one experiencing the Lord at a given time, hearing first-hand knowledge from someone else is encouragement which my spirit craves. Aside from mentoring, there are a myriad of other ways to build accountability into your life. The crux is to try something. 

Although this is my journey I’m sharing, I’m certain there are others who relate. Progress may be slow through the barren land, but the fertile land of summer will return, just as surely as the summer follows the pattern of seasons in nature.   

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