A Seaman's Quest

One man's search for truth

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My Spiritual Journey

Over the last year I have been on an amazing journey of spiritual growth. As I enter the final quarter of my life I have been reflecting deeply on the entire journey and looking to how I will spend the remainder.

I've been following Jesus now for 47 years, and attended around 7,500 church services and small group meetings. I've been involved in almost all aspects of church leadership. My life has been deeply committed to both personal growth and the ministry of the church.

I've always focused on daily devotions and memorized blocks of scripture, listening to over 5,000 sermons and reading 250 Christian books - learning has always been a huge part of my life with God.

Ministry experiences have taken me on foreign missions trips and given me the opportunity to be involved with miraculous healing. We have always given over 10% of our family income to the church and paid for 30 years of Christian schooling. We have sponsored many children and missionaries over the years. We have attended around 30 church conferences and countless leadership meetings.

When I look back over the years I am astounded at the amount of activity that we have experienced and the extraordinary opportunities that we have had to grow and learn. For most of that time we have been in relatively healthy churches that did the things that would lead people to grow in pursuit of Jesus.

But if I am totally honest in assessing my spiritual life, I would have to admit that I only embraced a shallow discipleship. It stopped far short of what God would have for me. I have largely exchanged a lot of activity for a deep relationship and experience of God's presence.

Throughout my life I have retained harmful behaviors and attitudes that deny the presence of God's authority in my life. I have been unable to overcome the impact of past hurts. Rather than surrender completely, I have chosen to deny and cover over the areas that remain unyielded to God. I was often experiencing great turmoil on the inside while trying to look good to impress others.

I remained emotionally immature and in many cases completely unaware of my feelings and the negative impact that they had on my life. My experience of God's love was extremely limited and my focus shifted toward learning and serving. Gradually my love for God was replaced by a sense of duty and the joy of ministry evaporated.

Although I believed I was pursuing God's kingdom (his authority and his will), I was really just building my own kingdom (self-effort and my will). I had a very selfish outlook and attempted to use God and others to pursue my own goals and agenda. When these goals were opposed I grew angry and despondent.

In many ways I led a dual life - carefully managing my public image to look holy to others, while secretly being angry that I could not get my way. This discrepancy between how I wanted others to see me and the internal experience was at the heart of much of my social and emotional dysfunction. This dissonance grew for years and I refused to address it.

Several years ago I began to explore the practices of Spiritual Formation. I discovered that there were many others also grappling with these issues. I began to realize that my church experience had led me to live in denial rather than admit my own brokenness. Over time, this caused me to embrace lies that were damaging me by undermining redemption in my life.

The practices of Spiritual Formation were catalytic in my journey toward healing. In particular the practices of Solitude, Silence, and Sabbath have allowed me to break out of lifelong habits based on self-effort. I have learned how to recognize the urge to control others and the world around me.

I am being transformed from willfulness to willingness by embracing a consistent attitude of repentance. As I realize new areas of brokenness I can acknowledge them freely and move toward healing. This has made me much more emotionally resilient and able to deal with situations that would have put me in a state of crisis at earlier times.

This time with God has also allowed me to embrace reconciliation and forgiveness more readily. This has made me more loving and tolerant toward others. I have seen a significant growth in my relationships and find it easier to connect with others.

I've also realized that my prayer life has been dramatically improved. I used to view prayer as a duty that I should do or as an attempt to tell God what he needed to do for me. Yes, I realize how bad this sounds.  Prayer for me now is simply an act of being with God and listening for anything that he might want to say. Silence has taught me to simply listen and stop talking. This is a major breakthrough for me. I now spend large blocks of time just enjoying God.

My journey is far from complete, but I now see the path that I am walking on into the future. No single resource has had a greater impact on my spiritual growth than Emotionally Healthy Discipleship by Pete Scazzero. His teaching is intensely practical in a way that much teaching is not. His discipleship course is a proven way to lead people toward a deep discipleship that transforms lives.