transformed by God
It was a very intense and busy summer. Included in that busy intensity were a lot of joys and wonderful experiences, but there were also a lot of struggles and challenges that went along with the fun of being at camp. One week towards the middle of the summer, I found myself in a very difficult camp where there were many stressful issues to deal with including challenging campers and staff. One morning towards the end of the week I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and asked the directors if I could have a bit of a break for about an hour. I walked beside the creek that is on the campground until I arrived at a lovely waterfall that I had heard was up the hill. There I sat down on a rock to rest a bit and collect my thoughts. I cried a little and thought a lot. I contemplated what had happened, how I was feeling, and how I would deal with the rest of the week ahead of me. As I sat there contemplatively problem-solving by listening and relaxing, I had a sudden rush of insight or revelation. Insight that, although simple, felt profound. The insight was that I did not want to simply give up on what I was doing. This was profound because I compared it to how I had felt in the preceding years when I came up against difficulties and challenges in my life. In most stark contrast was my experience in my computer classes: when I was computer programming and hit a problem that seemed un-solvable, I would feel like I wanted to give up. But this camp experience was different. Although the problems seemed just as unsolvable as a difficult computer program, I did not want to give up.
This realization had a profound effect on me because it made me look at my life choices in an entirely different light. Why should I keep doing something that I don’t want to stick with in tough times, when I’d found something else that I wanted to stick with even when it seemed to be an impossible challenge? That summer I began to seriously contemplate and discern what a career in ministry might look like for me. That fall I decided I had a lot to learn about ministry, so I decided to attend theology school. And then the following spring I was accepted at Vancouver School of Theology. Theology school has been challenging too, but there has always been an underlying commitment to the work I’m doing, which has kept and continues to keep me from giving up entirely.
If I dig even deeper into why it is that I refuse to give up, I would probably have to say that it has to do with a desire to serve God and neighbour with my whole being. And if I were to dig deeper into where that desire to serve God and neighbour comes from, I arrive at a simple but complex and profound answer: love. When I think more about my summer in Lewis River I realise that at that point in my life I was still holding very close to my heart an experience of the love of God that had transformed me. I had gone through a very dark spiritual place where I doubted God, doubted love, and doubted myself.
One night at a retreat, I walked a twisting labyrinth path that had various stations, and a cd to accompany the journey. At each station within the labyrinth the walkers were to listen to a different track on the cd that each was listening to on a personal cd player with headphones. The station I remember most clearly and vividly was one that had cushions sitting in front of a mirror, so that one could sit down on the cushions and then look at oneself in the mirror. As I sat down, the cd played soft music, and then a voice track began: “Look at yourself in the mirror” it said. “Look at the beautiful child of God that you are. You were made in God’s image and you are loved by God.” With those simple words came a rush of tears – a sign that I have learned for me often means I am experiencing a deep truth. And I realised that in my pain and searching I had lost track of that simple yet profound truth: that I am made in God’s image and loved unconditionally by God. It is this profound truth that my desire to love God and neighbour flows from.
I want to let God’s complete love for me and the whole world take over my whole self: body, mind and spirit. I want that overwhelming compassion and unconditional love of God for all life to take over and determine each and every step I take. I want to travel along paths that challenge me, that force me to be the very best version of myself, and to use all of my skills and gifts. My life has been transformed by God, mainly by God’s love, and I want everything I do to reflect that transformation.
(excerpted from my sermon this morning)