The past few months have been the most transformational for me during my time at seminary. While I was dragged through the mire in darkness last semester (which I have discussed somewhat on this site), now I am being cleaned off and stepping into new robes to walk forward.
"Moving forward" has been my mantra for the past several weeks as I am finally in a place of strength to leave what is in the past behind me and look forward to what God has in store for me.
My relationship with God lately has been interesting. I do in fact feel his presence, which I haven't felt in a long time, but it doesn't come with gushy feelings of comfort. Living in his presence has been unexplainable because He and I are in what I can only describe as a "conflict resolution" stage in our relationship. There has been hurt both given and received by both parties and now we're committed to working through and beyond it.
To be honest, I have not attended church regularly since I've been in seminary. This has been a conscious choice and has been both good and bad at times. However, with Holy Week I found myself yearning to be part of a church community.
Yesterday I ventured over to South Fellowship here in Littleton. They set up a walk-through, interactive Easter experience called "Expressions of Easter." As you walk through the different stations, you are asked to become a part of the experience by washing your hands, smearing (fake) blood over a post and lintel, rubbing ashes into your skin, nailing a "burden" into the cross, etc.
Being one who enjoys working with his hands, this experience was important for me. While my mind maybe wasn't totally there and my emotions were few, the fact that I got to interact with my hands was crucial to enter into the story of Our Savior.
At the end of the experience, there was a labyrinth available for worship. Although I have seen many labyrinths and have heard endless conversations about how they're either the greatest tool for spiritual growth or the work of the devil, I had never engaged one.
Interested in what kind of experience I would have, I entered into the maze with the instructions to pray for yourself on the way in and for others on the way out. Wanting to open myself up to the Holy Spirit I tried being as aware of God's presence as I could and when anything would pop into my head, I would pay attention to it, discern whether or not it was good, and act accordingly.
As I was walking and making the first turn-around, I felt compelled to stop, stand, and open my palms up to God. I did this and just breathed into His presence for awhile. Without deliberate action on my part, my hands raised and widened, as if I was to carry a boulder. When my arms were completely widened around this "boulder," I felt the intense pressure of actually holding something like a boulder. The weight I felt was almost too much to handle and I stumbled backwards a little bit. Interestingly, as this was going on, God told me (in my head, no audible voice) that this is the weight of the world He feels and that He takes it on so that I don't have to. As weirdly as my arms had widened, they then wrapped in around my stomach, exchanging the weight of the world for a loving embrace. I have no doubt this was God hugging me.
I know this is a weird story and that it sounds like some fanatic charismatic voodoo experience, but it happened and I can't really explain it. I am comforted by the experience because there was a peace and understanding within it that would not have been there had it come from anywhere but God. So take it as you will...
I'm still on this journey and I don't think I'll ever get to my destination in the visible landscape. But alas, a vagabond I am.