So, it is no secret that I have been working on preparing for the beginning of my journey with the Academy for Spiritual Formation this summer. I have been buying books, listening to audiobooks through Audible (I’m not paid to endorse them, but they’re pretty cool) while walking at my treadmill desk, and searching the scriptures for wisdom.
I have been carrying around a little yellow composition book that I have been filling with quotes and scriptures that have been inspiring me to ponder the depths of my own spirituality. Writing things with my hands helps me to remember them. I recently added this set of verses that have long been favorites of mine. This is Psalm 2:1-11 in the NRSV:
“My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you.”
I find that passage beautiful and it has ended up in the yellow composition book because it rings deeply in my soul. Part of my own journey lately has been one of crying out for insight into the challenging parts of life and indeed raising my voice to ask for understanding.
The very fact that I have a yellow composition book for this purpose speaks to the very depth of my desire. I have many notepads, but only one is labeled at the moment. I have many legal pads of paper, but only one composition pad is clipped shut so that the pages don’t flap around. I have many pads of paper, but only one has the internal nickname of the “Composition Book of Doom.” Don’t you think “doom” is a nice synonym for “fate”?
I want to go deeper in my own relationship with God. Yes, the Academy will likely help me to be a better pastor, but I have a thirst to go deeper in the practices that I will learn there for the sake of my own soul. Yes, by the way, your pastor has a soul and it is just as human as the average lay person’s soul.
In 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 Paul says “So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” I do not want to run up and down hills like a student in a high school sport team. I do not want to box the empty air even if it would make my form appear phenomenal. I want to make it through this journey and reach the end with God’s blessing.
I am a pastor. I have two (2) degrees that revolve around religion and religious practice. I am approaching 10 years of experience as a pastor. I have served in country churches and suburban churches. I have been friends, colleagues, and hopefully allies to Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Christian-Missionary Alliance, Free Methodist, Wesleyan, and non-denominational sisters and brothers in Christ. I have been around the block and have begun to develop the thick-skin that a pastor needs to survive the day-to-day life in the church. I have been and done all these things that I can now point to as positives in my life, but let’s be entirely honest. I still have days when I wake up, reflect on what happened the day before, and wonder how I will get through the day ahead of me.
I cry out, I raise my voice, I seek, I ask, and I plead with God that I might survive this hair-raising experience called ministry. I pray daily that my wife will speak to me at the end of this journey, that my kids won’t be spiritually scarred, and that I will one day hear the voice of God say “Well done.”
I want to invite you to consider the ways you seek God’s wisdom for your life. Is there a better Monday blog invitation than to invite you to think about how you’ll seek God’s strength for the week ahead? How will you seek God? Will the week ahead be a blessing?