Are You Kidding?

Chad Garrison

HD Communications Director | Co-Pastor Illuminate Indy | Indianapolis, IN

It’s happened to all of us, and for me it was in June. I officially collided with the wall that is the year 2020. At least initially, that’s what I thought it was.

It’d be easy for me to point to our “new normal” in ministry and life itself as the culprit. But personally, while I don‘t always love change, I don’t fear it either. In fact, in the spring of 2019, I felt compelled along with our Illuminate Indy leadership to take a leap of faith in essentially restarting our young church plant by going back into the setting of homes, to become a house church network. Apparently God knew what was coming.

But I didn’t, and there I was, a year later: anxious, full of doubt, desperately seeking significance, embittered and longing for the way it used to be. Around this time, I came across a story Eugene Peterson tells in his book, Every Step An Arrival, that totally read my mail:

Once upon a time there was an atheist climbing a mountain. At a very high altitude on a very dangerous slope, he slipped, stumbled over the edge of a sheer cliff, and desperately grabbed at the cliff edge and held on. There was no help around, and his fingers began to get tired. Dangling thousands of feet over a rocky chasm, he finally cried out, “O God, if there is a God, I will do anything. Just save me.” He repeated the prayer several times when suddenly he was interrupted by a thundering voice. “Do you really mean anything?” The atheist said, “Anything!” The voice then said, “Okay, let go.” The atheist replied indignantly, “Are you kidding?”

Upon further review and reflection, 2020, for me, has been a gigantic revelation.

The idols I secretly worshipped (Hello, security & comfort), along with the ones that were driving me from my blind spots (like Control and Significance) were all suddenly on display, completely unavoidable. And as I scrambled to strategize, cope, compensate and strive—the masters I served were never satisfied.

I found myself clinging to the mountainside of my own making, hoping my skills, talent and experience would save me. And when God said, “Okay, let go,” all that I could respond with was, “Are you kidding me?!”

It was then Romans‬ ‭11:33-36 that brought the message home:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”‬ ‭(ESV)‬‬

Did you hear Paul’s words? Who can know the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? For from him and through him and to him are ALL things. #AllTheThings

I was listening to a podcast recently where Pastor Sean Palmer told of his realization that, “there was so much that I could do [in ministry] that I didn’t need God for.” He continued in positing the idea that many pastors (myself included) can simply find themselves in a place where we “really don’t trust God, and we don’t really trust what we’re telling our churches about God.” I’d go as far to say that we have forgone the childlike faith that once beckoned us into His service, choosing to instead take grip of our idol of self. And friends, it’s. just. not. working.

In June, at an impromptu yet necessary prayer retreat, God told me to let go. I closed my eyes and visualized myself dangling from the mountainside. To the Enneagram Six in me, that makes zero sense, because how is that even survivable?! But I had to get back to that absolute TRUST in God and His inscrutable ways. So I imagined letting go.

I wish I could tell you that things instantly got better, because that might make this action all the more attractive to you! LOL, but it didn’t. In fact, the farther I’ve fallen from the mountain into God’s presence, the more inward work I’ve had to do. The process of being humbled and broken before God isn’t always pleasant.

But I’ve gained a new understanding GRACE, and what it means to give it freely in return. I’ve heard Jesus say that He doesn’t just love me, He also LIKES me—and it’s not tied to my achievements or lack there of.

And the myth of control has been exposed. But to be honest, I currently find myself facing more uncertainty than I did this past Spring. But let me tell you, I haven’t been this close to my Savior in a long time, and the peace that has come with it makes trusting the process worth it.

To close, I was recently directed to Richard J Foster’s “Prayer of Relinquishment” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home), and have found it a helpful, daily point of re-centering my TRUST:
Today, O Lord, I yield myself to You.
May Your will be my delight today.
May Your way have perfect sway in me.
May Your love be the pattern of my living.
I surrender to You my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.
Do with them what You will, when You will, as You will.
I place into Your loving care my family, my friends, my future.
Care for them with a care that I can never give.
I release into Your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.
Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish Your Kingdom on earth.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
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