Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 14, 2004

Hermit-crab Christianity?

Lately I've been feeling like a hermit crab which, having poked its head out of its shell for a while, looked about, chatted with a few passers-by, but now has suddenly decided to draw back into its private shell again. I mean, I suspended my participation in my church's leadership institute, and now I've stopped leading a small group. This has not been a concerted thing, not a planned thing, but along with my dissatisfaction with the PDL program, it's caused me to feel kind of out-of-step with my church. I really don't want to be a loner, but that's kind of how I feel right now.

What I know is that throughout this time I need to be seeking God. Yesterday in my prayers I felt as if God asked me this question: How much grace are you willing to offer? Have you measured it out--this much for so-and-so, and even more for good measure--I tell you it's not enough. More will be required. I am calling on you, son, to offer more.

Now, I have no idea what this applies to, or exactly what it means. But I'd been reading in Genesis that morning, and I'd been dwelling on 15:6, "Abram believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness."

Well, somehow I think these two issues, the grace that is required of God's children as they walk through this world, and the faith to trust God even when His promise seems absurd, are both bound up together. And I think that in this time of withdrawing that I am going through right now, the devil has been very quietly digging under the walls of my faith, seeking by slow degrees to undermine them. And I also believe he has a timetable, the devil does, and he needs to complete his work by a particular day and hour in order to have the maximum effect. That time, that day and hour is coming, it is the time of faith-testing. In that time, so he hopes, my faith will crumble.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not afraid of him. But I do think that these times of faith-testing do come in our lives, and we come through them stronger in our faith or perhaps weaker for a time. And as I thought about these things, I just knew that if such a time should come, it will be the grace I offer another that will get me through. More grace, God seemed to be saying, than I have yet imagined. And this is how my faith would stand. This is how it would be "walked out." When that time comes, I wrote in my journal, you will learn the true length and breadth and height and depth of love. Is this what it means to stand in grace? Not only the forgiveness of God for us, but the forgiveness we offer, in the power of the Spirit, freely to another?

And you know, as I said, I don't know what any of this has to do with me. But I'm looking for it now. And I'm wondering about it. I'm staying watchful. I would value your responses here.


Blogger rebecca said...

I guess my question is why you withdrew from those activities at the start of the post. Did you feel "out of step" with them, too? I'm not asking just because I'm curious, really, but because I want to understand exactly where you're coming from in this "hermit crab" thing, so if you think your reasons have no bearing on any of this, you can ignore my question.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I think maybe God is leading you into another desert experience. You'll need more in order to give more. It's painful in the time entering in, as things are taking away, you do get a feeling of a loner, even a backslider, but in the depth of the desert you'll meet Him closer than ever, and you'll have all the grace that you need in order to fulfil your calling. You can't give unless you first have. I'm just making guesses, I don't quite understand your post really.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Church is the hardest experience you will go through as a believer, that is, if you involve yourself in its "trappings". I just left another site where a fellow in the comments section utilized the word "eviscerate" which I learned means (1) to take the entrails out of; or (2) to deprive of content or force. The best advice I can give you is to bury yourself in Him. When we can come to the place where we realize that "grace" is not a five-letter word defined by our own reasoning, but a resurrection of Christ within us, we can then learn to "overcome the world", be it seated on the pew beside us, or trying to arise within us...........peace, my friend

7:36 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Susan, your comment "I don't understand your post really," is right on the money. I mean, I don't quite understand it either. I was definitely writing with a sense of confusion. I felt, in writing that post, more at a loss as to what I really needed to be saying--what really was at the center. Somehow I think it's grace, and I value was Jim had to say regarding that. I don't feel eviscerated at all, I feel "out-of-step," a much milder condition I expect. But serious enough. I mean, it makes it difficult to feel free to pray with other people, to be open and honest, etc. You have to understand I am not really blaming the church--this is an old condition for me, this hermit-crab thing. I am repeating a behavior that goes way back. Sure, there are circumstances that prompted it, but they didn't necesitate it. Oh well, sorry to be beating around this bush so much. Thanks for all your comments.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

One thing that I know, is that God's word is true and that He is faithful to His word. Even if I have trouble believing for something, then I know that God hasn't moved, it's just my problem. I am just not where I'm supposed to be. We are going through a bit of a financial desert at the moment, but even if I do nothing, I know that I can depend on the Grace of God to work things out. I don't try to pysche myself up to 'believe' for something, I just know that God loves His children and all things work for the good for those that love Him. Sometimes I wonder why God so loves the world....I'm so glad He does!!!

9:08 AM  
Blogger rebecca said...

Well, I will certainly pray for you, even though I'm having a hard time understanding exactly what your feeling.

I actually always feel a little "out of step". I think it's part of the human condition. But it seems like you are feeling something more than just being an imperfect cog in a not so well-oiled machine.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Bob...Other than a five-year period where I helped another fellow pioneer an innercity work in Cincinnati, I've been with my church for thirty-two years. I visited on Sunday nights even during those five. I can tell you it's NOT the same church I started out with. Churches are individuals even as you and I. They have their own "ups and downs", valleys and mountain tops. It is VERY possible for them to go one way and you another within the realm of serving Him. It doesn't mean either of you are wrong. Even Paul and Barnabus went their separate ways. I yet attend my own church for three reasons: (1) my daughter and grandkids go there; (2) it is my "roots" and I find on occasion within the worship what I was born into in the beginning; and (3) God hasn't give me any direction to go elsewhere. You're in my prayers, brother. Peace.........

12:50 PM  
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