I’m often very slow to answer a call. Whether it is a call from nature or a call from God, I’m slow. I’ve just realized this. I’ve just put these things together. I’m figuring that by working on one, I’ll be working on the other at the same time. At the very least, noticing where there is a weakness means that it doesn’t have control over me.
I used to think it was just that I was slow to answer God’s call. After all, I’m bipolar. How am I supposed to know if it is God talking or if it is the disease talking? Now, bipolar disorder doesn’t usually manifest with hearing voices, but I’m just being careful. How do I know I don’t have an extra twist to my diagnosis? There are enough people who say they hear from God and it is more than obvious in their actions that they are making it up.
I think our society has done an amazing job of teaching people to question hearing from God. We joke about hearing voices in your head. Even mainstream church has taught people that hearing from God is something only prophets in the Old Testament did. It isn’t something that is done today.
I’ve long questioned what I’ve heard. I’ve long fought against it. I know things before they happen. I feel compelled to go up to total strangers and ask them if everything is OK, only to find out that it isn’t and they need help.
I’ve long fought against this, and been slow to respond. My church didn’t teach me how to recognize the voice of God, and that is the one place that should have. When I did finally come to accept what I was hearing, I was very slow in responding. I didn’t act. I feel that I’m going to get in further than I know what to do. I’m going to show up to something like a spiritual heart attack and all I have is a band-aid.
This is why I went to get training. I went to my minister three years ago and asked for training and oversight. I keep coming across people who are broken and hurting, and I want to help but I don’t know how. I want to gain the skills necessary to be helpful to them in their time of emotional crisis. I want to learn how to provide spiritual first aid. I figure training would help me to get over my hesitancy to answer God’s call. I’d know what to do. I also asked for oversight, so that others would make sure I was on the right path. Again, I didn’t want to be misled by my mind.
But my motives were questioned. I was put on hold. Three years went by before the process (the priest decided I was being called to be a deacon) even began, and then when it did I had to provide proof of when and where and by what priest and I was baptized. I had to provide proof of when and where and by what bishop I was confirmed. I had to provide certified copies of my college transcripts. I had to write my spiritual biography. I had to provide my financial records, to prove that I was a good steward of money.
This is all for a non-paying position. This is all for a job that would be over and above my real job that paid the bills, which was 40 hours a week already.
And I still hadn’t learned in that time how to discern if that voice I was hearing was God’s.
I did get to go to a Pastoral Care class, and that was helpful. On the surface, it was learning how to be a chaplain in a hospital. Deeper, it was about learning how to listen to people, really listen, in a deep way. It was about how to set aside my own fears and concerns and provide a safe place for the other person to get out their fears and concerns. It was like learning how to be a spiritual midwife.
I also got connected with a spiritual director. In order to go through the process, I had to meet with a spiritual director once a month. The fee for that is out of my own pocket. A spiritual director is kind of like a guru. She or he is trained in a divinity school usually, and the goal is intimacy with God. I’ve learned more from my spiritual director than I’ve ever learned from any minister in any church.
But I still haven’t learned how to determine what is God and what is in my head, and then to respond faster. I’m relaxing into it, however. I’m becoming my own teacher. This isn’t what I wanted, but it has to happen somehow. I’ve not gotten the help I wanted or needed from supposed experts, so I’ve gone off on my own.
It is sad that I asked for training on how to help people and I got challenged on it, and then I got delayed. I’d think that the desire to help people wouldn’t be so special that it needs a committee and assignments and paperwork. I think of all the people who are still just as lost and broken three years later, who still need help and didn’t get it because I was delayed.
I’m hurt. I’m angry. I feel deceived. I feel like I’ve been insulted and my time and energy has been wasted. I feel like I was being trained to wedge myself into the machine that is the church, to learn how to wait and respond to the bureaucracy of the church rather than how to wait and respond to the voice of God. The church would tell me that the two are the same, but you know a tree by its fruit, and something is rotten here.
I’m frustrated when I see someone who is homeless. I want to treat the cause, not the symptom. To give them a banana and a $20 bill is only going to help them right then. What about tomorrow?
There is a program in Nashville called Thistle Farms. It takes women off the streets, women who are drug abusers and prostitutes, and teaches them how to be human again. It is a two-year program, where they detox and learn job skills. While I admire the efforts of this program, I want to go backwards. I want to prevent people from becoming drug addicts and prostitutes to start off with. I want to prevent homelessness.
I don’t want to treat the symptom. I want to treat the cause. And I don’t know how.
And meanwhile I’ve left church because they not only didn’t support me but delayed me in my journey to understanding my calling. I’ve left church because the priest told me to not talk about God. I’ve left church because when I posted a blog about how far off the track I think church has gotten from the message of Jesus I got attacked instead of listened to.
I understand, a little. I understand how hard it is for members of the church, especially the priest, to accept that we are going in the wrong direction. I understand, because I felt that in church. I felt that I’ve wasted a lot of my time in church listening to somebody else’s interpretation of the Bible rather than being taught how to interpret it for myself – how to make it real, how to make it applicable to daily life.
It’s like I was given a really tasty cake every week but not taught the recipe. I want to learn how to make that cake myself. Then I want to share it with others.
That is part of what I’m trying to do here, with this blog. I’m trying to replicate what I’ve tasted, what I’ve experienced without a cookbook. I’m winging it. I think that just trying to figure it out on my own I’m getting pretty close to what it is.
I’m angry at every church I’ve ever been in for standing in my way. I’m angry at them for clipping my wings. I know it isn’t personal and it isn’t intentional. I feel like it was done to them too, so they didn’t know any better.
So in the meantime I muddle along. And I think there is something in the idea of getting faster at answering any call.
At the risk of getting too personal, I have a hard time waking up and going to the bathroom. I tend to lie there, in a mild state of discomfort, rather than getting up and just going. Or I have a tendency to be really cold and unwilling or unable to move enough to get a blanket to cover myself. I’m wondering if working on these things, these known physical needs, will help me with the rest. I’ll lie around, quietly miserable, and not do anything to help myself. I feel kind of paralyzed.
It is really hard to get disciplined when you are asleep.
It is hard enough when you are awake. It is hard to stop any bad habit and start a good one. It is hard to make time to exercise. It is hard to choose nutritious food rather than junk food. It is hard to divorce yourself from mind-numbing television shows and soul-eating relationships.
I feel that many of us are waking up, now, to ourselves, to our callings. I’m grateful. Our energy will carry over to others.