When we’re on a real-world journey, unexpected situations unfold that turn out, providentially, to help us better understand what God created us to be and to do – why we are here and what we can contribute to the expansion of the Kingdom through our own unique design. I’m about to embark on what seems to be the beginning of closure in one major stage in that journey for me. This will still take a while, like one last big push uphill in a steeple-chase race.
And though I don’t have a clue what’s coming after this, there are a few important things that have become for more settled in my soul over this last stretch of 20 years. (Note that I said these realities have become more settled over time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have angst over them. Maybe just not as much as I used to.) (In fact, while one of my friends periodically says that I’m “the posterboy for faith” I think it’s more “the posterboy for perseverance.” Maybe they’re really the same, but one emphasizes the concept more than the concrete action. I don’t know, but I suspect neither one is doubt-free or angst-absent.) Anyway, here are key things I’ve concluded …
First, God really, really is in control – even over the horrors and heartaches we experience – and He really does provide empowerment and opportunities to bring redemption into those difficulties.
This is especially poignant to me right now, because today – yes, today! – I launched into the final conceptualization and editing process for a book about spiritually abusive leaders and toxic organizations. Not exactly a barrel of fun, this topic, as it’s based on a multitude of personal encounters with malignant church and ministry leaders, many who showed no significant signs of remorse or repentance from the intentional harm they inflicted. Which is a pretty sure sign that they have a grandiose problem with lording it over others for the sake of their own self love.
Anyway, I’m doing this book at all for a couple reasons: It represents a redemptive and constructive way to deal with my own wounds. It’s not an exposé, but lays out a series of practical things I’ve learned from examining my own life and experiences and observations against the standards laid out in the New Testament. Hopefully this book can help in:
- Preventing others from being harmed or becoming harmful through developing as healthy individuals involved in healthy communities.
- Intercepting those already at risk of perpetrating abuse on others, enabling abusers, or naively attracting abusive people to themselves.
- Intervening in the lives of abusers and their enablers, and in the lives of victims who need to consider becoming survivors.
- Restoring those who want help – whether they are survivors of spiritual abuse or the former perpetrators thereof.
In my forthcoming curriculum series, I’m doing this book first for a couple reasons: When we have an array of activities to choose from, there are times when we need to do the hardest thing first. This is one of those times. Also, “Spiritual Abuse Awareness Month” is January. Perhaps this will be done in time for that.
This is big stuff. Bullying is a huge issue in the church and society. In my understanding of discipleship, sometimes the Spirit leads us to commit ourselves to providing for others what we could not find for ourselves. That seems to be much of what my resource writing has been about. In a typical week, at least a third of the people who come to this blog via a search engine have typed in some kind of phrase about abuse. Maybe something I’ve written is making a difference out there …
Second, God really does provide what we need.
I’ve seen this truth enacted every month for three years now, since losing my job in October 2008. But the supply line is never the same two months running. Sometimes all I need is provided by short-term work, other times it’s been through sales on eBay, still other times through the generosity of family and friends in giving gifts. Usually it’s an unexpected combination of two or three sources of resources. Plus the occasional finding money on the street, or that I stuck in a drawer some years before. Keeps me hopping – and hoping. I don’t know if all that makes this enactment into high drama or theatre of the absurd. I just keep going with it. It’s a surprise to many, myself included, that I am still here in the same place, three years later. But, I must say, what a relief!
And I’m coming to accept that if provisions don’t seem to arrive on time, there’s some other good and relevant reason behind the apparent delay. This is poignant right now because I have no clue how I’ll make it through to the end of this production stage, however long it lasts. Although research and development like this is one of my “dream jobs” – I have a strong sense that I’m doing what I was designed for – this whole last three-year round of R&D is appearing in the midst of nightmarish circumstances. Thankfully, this storyline plays as an ensemble piece and I’m not in this on my own. I do have a lot of resources through a network of those who pray, encourage, support, talk through material, etc. But my reserves on the physical and financial fronts seem about as low as they can go. From a human perspective, this is an absolutely terrible time to tackle this. But it also seems like a now-or-never moment. No one can complete this work for me. (There’s a whole lot of analysis rattlin’ around in my brain that I’ve waited for this final stage to disgorge onto paper.) And it’s also about day-by-day faith-building, not waiting until everything seems comfortable and convenient enough.
And that’s where this red Starbucks bird ornament in the picture comes in. My friend Katie gave it to me a few years ago as a reminder that, as the old-time gospel song goes, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” We’ve each seen the Lord watch over us and take care of our needs time and time again, even if we’re shaky about how and when He will do so. And every so often, one of us will send a little reminder email message to the other with a subject line like, “Chirp! Chirp!” Sometimes that’s all it says. But we know what it means to us human sparrows, right?
So, that’s it. After 40 years of evangelical church experiences, 20 years research on healthy and contextual ministry, and three years of intensive writing, finalizing the first portfolio got underway today! After this first book, tentative plans are to finish the other portfolios that include text, images, individual reflection questions, group/team discussions questions, small film/media studies, simulation scenarios, trading cards (Yesss!) – and don’t forget the syllabus and the guidelines for “skill certification.” And if by chance I end up having a dedicated website, there will likely be advanced bonus case studies available on organizations, media, and individuals. And perhaps videos. Additional suggestions for immersion activities. And maybe even digital magazines. (Well, yuh gotta aim for the stars in order to make it at least to the moon …)
FYI for inquiring minds who want to know, here’s the probable order of the portfolios:
- Elements of paradigm systems
- Processes in paradigm shifts
- Key concepts and tools for critical thinking in a holistic-paradigm world
- Seven integrated processes for creative and sustainable social change start-ups
Wheww! Well, one day into the last lap done! Prayer for continuance appreciated …
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~ Jesus, Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)