When Life Takes a Dump, God Offers a Shovel
This season has been exhausting, unnerving, and persistently disruptive – much like the sense I often experienced as a young man that no matter how tenaciously I tried I didn’t fit in nor ever would.
The past few days offered a clarity that “real life” so readily obfuscates without mercy – a push and shove with God that is intended to honor me and not humiliate the journey I’m taking with Him. Friday (in the rearview mirror) was a cluster-fuck of people kicking me in the nuts: my boss acting like his two-year old son because I had the audacity to hold a boundary he wouldn’t honor; a Christian brother coming sideways with a religious spirit of “forgiveness” as if he conveniently forgot that in our recently damaged relationship I had been the one to seek reconciliation but was turned aside by his wounded heart; a friend of twenty years (who has a good heart but rarely, if ever, initiates the building of our friendship) calls and asks me to do him not one but two favors – not even inquiring, “How’s your heart? How have you been?” All of these were topped off by a confrontation from a co-worker that bordered on the physical and the chattering of selfish whispers trying to arrange comfort and numbness outside of closeness to and with God to deal with it.
What it felt like was that life was just taking a great, big steaming dump right on me and my heart’s story. No wonder drugs, pornography, and gluttony always kept me locked up in solitary confinement. This unholy trinity would never deny me access to my pain, suffering, and hurt – but their greatest victory was in fostering the illusion I could never trust God to open the prison cell door and escort me to the amazing freedom He offers.
The weekend dissolved into a wrestling match, a blur of shame, pain, and ferocious rage that wanted to simultaneously hide and explode – and I fully understood why a human soul can willfully take another or itself in the expression of wounds which cannot heal outside of divine intervention. Kill or be killed.
Jesus is certainly disruptive in His honesty, his fierce intention in coming after me and my heart. When life takes a dump, God offers a shovel.
He’s been graciously walking me into the “plot points” of the global smaller stories I’ve been living in – what John Eldredge and Brent Curtis (in their book The Sacred Romance) call “the Message of the Arrows.” In his mercy, He did not shield my eyes through the discomfort, drawing me to the whiteboard set up in my living room that we had been scribing to over the past few weeks. The messages, wounds, and agreements I named were like cannon shots of death in the chaos of war fired at my heart over decades of life:
Selfish. Wrecking ball. Control. Fear. Addiction. Impatience. Left out. Dark cunning. Survival. Revenge. Character assassin. Gluttony. Tough guy. Rage. Poor. Deceit. Broken. Distrust. Hate. Arrogance. Lust. Hero worship. Alone. Shame. Need to be loved. Obsession. Independence. Belligerent.
Come Sunday evening, my heart acquiesced into vulnerability, surrendered at some level and open to the soft, still voice of the Spirit. He was inviting me into the process of turning over the shit life has been dumping (…is dumping…will be dumping…) on me and mixing it deeper into the “becoming” soil of my heart (a heart that God knows is – and calls – “good”). I began to receive restoration. And it felt like God the Father was showing me how to shovel…and at one point turned to me, handing me the shovel to say, ‘Here, give it a go.’
Last night, I listened to a podcast from my fierce-hearted friends at Wild at Heart. It was the second in a two-part series entitled “Becoming a Son of God.” Honestly, my relationship to the realm of father is, to be blunt, one of those big, smelly dumps that life had so intentionally shat upon me, even with some deep healing that’s occurred.
As Morgan Snyder, John Eldredge, Craig McConnell, and Bart Hansen shared a vocal collage of their walk with God in this endeavor, I felt hot tears push against the sides of my eyes and begin falling down my cheeks. At first, I was pissed. These are good men, warrior/poets that I trust and love. Internally, my dialogue was, “Sure, of course they get to have sonship. Me? I’ll probably end up in heaven and Jesus will be…too busy to see me, too wrapped up in playing with all of His favorites to even recognize me. His Father will have no time for me. There probably won’t even be a room in my Father’s house as promised. I’ll be the only homeless orphan in heaven. And if I fucked up my faith and got it all wrong, I’ll be on the Greyhound bus to hell…which will basically consist of experiencing nothing worse than I’ve already suffered in this dump called life.”
No wonder I couldn’t sleep. Before I did pass out with exhaustion, Spirit also led me to a recent blog from Morgan called “Chasing Wild – Part One.” One of the urgings Morgs felt God pressing in on him was in the form of a question:
'Would you give me your heart and follow me?'
Dawn greeted me with fatigue and a commitment to pray. I normally walk through the Wild at Heart Daily Prayer. Instead, I found myself in a sojourn through their Become Good Soil Prayer. As I read the words aloud in my small outpost of an apartment in Old Louisville, I could feel rivulets of the wellspring of life begin to quench parched tributaries in my spirit, soul, and body…my heart, mind, and will. Gathering myself for the day and work, I opened the apartment door to leave and was taken aback by a presence at my feet.
On the step of my doorway sat a package addressed to me. My heart caught for a moment, and I recognized the unannounced visitor as being hope.
“Wow, Father,” I said in a small boy’s voice, “is this a gift for me?” I scooped it up and put it inside my briefcase. Later, settled into my office chair at work, I opened the package. I laughed. It was a promotional mailing to the Maximus Heart ministry – it was a pen.
Really, God – a pen?? And I remembered the question He gave to Morgan: 'Would you give me your heart and follow me?'
In my morning prayer, I had given God my “Yes!” and permission for just that. And…so I followed. He took me back into the Ransomed Heart app on my smartphone and I was led (followed) into individual blog postings from Morgan, Bart, John, and Craig. Again, it was as if God handed me the shovel as I transposed these passages into my journal (thus the need for the pen):
“Where is it that God is inviting my willingness to let Him author me into a story far better than I could ever ask for or imagine? Where is it my Father is asking, ‘Would you give me your heart and follow me?’ What is my “wild” and how is He inviting me to chase it?” (Morgan Snyder from “Chasing Wild – Part One”)
“’The greatness of the warrior is not defined by hating what is in front of him but rather loving what is behind him.’ (G.K. Chesterton) What makes a fierce warrior? Love.” (Bart Hansen from “What Makes a Fierce Warrior?” )
“This moment may be heartbreaking, but this is not my total experience of God, not even close. I have to anchor myself in what is true: God is good. He cares immensely. He is involved. When disappointment strikes and my prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling, I simply must anchor my heart in these truths or I will go down like a sinking ship.” (John Eldredge from “Disappointment in Prayer”)
“He was silent and that was okay. That he said nothing said so much. He was just there, next to me…with me…and I was in his presence and…he’s crying. He was silent, but his tears said everything. I knew that He knows all that I’m facing; the losses and pain; the struggles and terrors; my failures and ache to live and love well. I could tell He knew, and knowing that he knew everything about me, my life and this season…brought a tear to his eye. He’s crying with me, for me, over me. The tear is everything!” (Craig McConnell from “A Park Bench – The Presence of God”)
God shows up. With a shovel. So I’ll depart with an invitation:
Where has life taken a dump on you, your heart? What have you done with this gift? And are you ready to take the shovel from God as He hands it to you, turning that shit into good soil? If not, what are you going to in order to avoid the shovel work with God?
It’s Wednesday. I’m the project. And I’m definitely shovel ready!!
JOHN FONTAINE, Writer @ Large