Last April, I wrote about reading journal entries from 1995... I was very saddened by them. The prayers I was writing really bothered me because they were so immature.
I have been reformatting my journal files for Word so that I can locate some of the old "good" info more easily. This means that yesterday I took a peek back through those entries. I was amazed at the change in my attitude toward myself. I don't see a falling spirit anymore. I see a struggling person trying very hard to make sense of some very deep theological issues with absolutely no guidance from her church community--in fact, with a lot of criticism as she takes her first steps in the very ministries God has set before her. If someone had told me than what one of my professors told me last semester, I might have had more strength for the journey--and had my head on a lot straighter. When you engage in ministry, particularly in ministry with difficult people (the kind of people God wants to reach and not the church's old faithful), there is often tension from within the church. I understand that now. The church isn't used to situations that don't show immediate results, where prayer and fasting are required and sometimes things get much worse before they get better and you have to keep holding on even though you may wander in the desert for 40 years but God still promises you a land.
I just had no idea. I was trying to exist in a world of Pentecostalism; and when the results didn't come and I continued to stand, I was said to be in spiritual rebellion by one spiritual leader and spiritual denial by another significant person in my life. Spiritual rebellion? Spiritual denial? I don't think so! What is in my journal? Things that show my heart. Notes that show that I was not only attending to the Word spoken at church but also searching outside the appointed times, taking time to read books and various Bible passages and question their meanings and my motives for various actions, to pray, etc. That is not the behavior of a person in rebellion or a state of denial!
My prayers may have been immature at the time; but the immaturity demonstrates not a personal flaw but a lack of spiritual mentoring in my life that was taking place over a period of many years despite my continuing to attend church and seek out relationships. I make references in my journal to calling people and initiating relationships. The calls were never returned. I was left on my own. My relationships were exclusively with people who were weaker spiritually--not because that was my choice but because that's just how life worked out. THAT is what makes me sad when I read these entries now. No wonder I fell into the emotional pits... How did I ever get to where I am today? It's worth praising God about because where I am today has everything to do with grace and God's response to years and years of holding on and seeking, wrestling and not letting go until He blessed me! Maybe I'm not the young minister I could have been; but I am learning not to despise those years. They were part of my formative experience theologically, even if that formation meant that I had to wander in the desert.