I finished up The Critical Journey a few weeks ago. Over the next few weeks I hope to post up some thoughts, ideas and personal reflections elicited by this book. In this post I am just going to cover some quotes that touch on what it means to be in Stage 3 of the journey and what it means to be caged there. This will serve as a bridge to Stage 4/The wall – a stage that I will write about more extensively.
Stage 3 is described as the “doing” stage. It is the period of time when we most consciously find ourselves working for God. In fact our faith is characterized as just that. . . .
It is positive and dynamic, centered on being productive in the area of our faith. It nourishes us because it is so personally rewarding, even when the objective is to help others. In helping or leading, we are also fed, so it operates on goals and achievements, building and creating. . . .
For many, this stage describes the height of their faith experience. It feels exciting, fulfilling, awesome, inspiring, fruitful. . . . It seems to be an almost insatiable period because everything is going so well. For some, this is captured in the phrase, “if God be for us, who can be against us?”
Caged (stuck in) Stage 3
Some who are stuck at stage 3 make others squirm. We are so zealous and engaging. No one can be around us without hearing our story and our trying to convert them, whether to a charismatic experience, a peace or justice issue, a born-again faith, or the latest spiritual seminar. Hard to fend off, we leave battle scars. We believe so strongly that others need what we have that we cannot rest until we are satisfied that they want it too. . .
when we are caged at this stage, we insist on personal acceptance of and participation in our experience because that makes us feel successful in our faith. We take personal satisfaction in having saved others from some horrible fate. They can become productive like we are, and we can get the credit. . . .
We work so hard at whatever we are doing as part of our faith experience that we become weary in well doing. We are burning out and frequently at the same time feeling unappreciated without knowing why. People did not change in the ways we wanted them to or at the pace we expected. Or we feel our leadership does not result in the breakthroughs we desired from it. Usually, someone else is at fault. We tried as hard as we could to “make it happen.” So we are very disappointed, sometimes even bitter. . .
The more successful we are at stage 3, or the more productive we become, the more tempting it is to slip into the cage of self centeredness, even self worship. We feel indispensable to the group. . . . The harder we work, the more success we have, the stronger our faith must be. We put our desires in the place of God and call it God’s will. And if challenged we will deny it vehemently, frequently using Scripture or other evidence to prove us right. We can parry the challenge by attributing jealousy or immaturity to the challengers. . . .
Life becomes a performance. . . We cannot be vulnerable or look weak in front of others because we would be out of control. We are angry at God inside and very fearful of being found out, so our facade is stronger than ever. We look almost perfect to those around us. We are frequently worshiped as heroes. We thrive on the audience reaction. Their applause become addictive. We go back for more and more. We strive so hard to be loved for what we have done rather than for who we are. We are ultimately very, very lonely people.
Moving from Stage 3 to stage 4
This transition becomes very difficult because the certainty of stage 3 dissolves into uncertainty and questioning at stage 4. . . .
There may even be a time in which we sense the loss of God. God appears to have abandoned us, disappeared without a trace. . . .
This is clearly the most alarming place of all the journey. While the doubts or crises are there, we frequently feel as though God is not there when we need God most. . . . It sets the stage for the inevitable, humbling, crumbling experience of rediscovering God again. . . .
Our faith, our relationship with God, must change before it can be remolded.
“Our faith, our relationship with God, must change before it can be remolded.” Oh how true I am finding this to be! And if it does not, I believe that we are stuck in moving back and forth in the first three stages. Because until we undergo this change of relationship, we cannot move forward.
Reading this book has given me the opportunity to reflect back on my own journey and better evaluate where I have been. I can see more clearly where I get “stuck” and why it is that I am getting “stuck.” And that if I can accept true grace, God can take me through my “stuckness” and into an entirely new relationship with him.
I can clearly remember the very first time I experienced the “Dark Night of the Soul.” We had clearly felt God leading us to Denver Seminary, so we followed. And then the wheels fell off of everything. It felt as if he had brought us to Denver and then abandoned us completely. God was no where to be found. I remember lying on the floor of our bedroom, prostrate before God, pouring out my anger, disillusionment, hopelessness. . . and then I began to swear at God. Really. Literally. And then I felt awful. Really, really, awful. And guilty – beyond belief. And fearful — how can one swear at the living God and not pay the price? Surely lightning should strike me dead. And I groveled – for my life. But God is merciful and slow to anger. And forgiving.
Since then, I have experienced this dark night of the soul twice more. Most recently during this past year. But I think I am finally getting what it is that God is showing me, where he is trying to take me. A journey that I would like to share more about in the next post on stage 4 and “The Wall.”
Journey with me to the wall, wont you? Together let’s learn how to take it down – one “brick” at a time.