“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19
Monday morning I arrived at the conference exhausted. During an emotion exercise we were given a worksheet with four columns of emotions – happy, sad, angry and confused. We were to circle all the emotions in each column we had experienced in the last several months. I thought about the last five months and I circled. What I discovered was that I had circled one happy emotion (apparently some time in the last five months I felt excited), 29 sad emotions, 6 angry emotions and 10 confused emotions. Needless to say I was hurting.
For the last five months I have been investing far too many hours into work and most not into the ministry to which I was called. The short story is that I have been working 70+ hours each week and finding myself saying, “I love what I do but it is killing me.” I was in a desert created by a deficit budget, a divided house of ministry, and a dead brother. I was almost finished.
Monday night before I lay down to sleep I engaged in a small imaginative experiment suggested to me by a book titled Sacred Rhythms. As I lay still on my bed I imagined myself in the story of blind Bartimaeus. You’ll remember that Jesus was moving through a crowded street when he heard someone crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner!” Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus asked for his eyesight to be restored and it was so. I imagined myself in Bartimaeus’ place crying out, “Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner!” I then imagined Jesus hearing me and asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”
It is at this point that the Holy Spirit spoke on my behalf. (After all, who knows me better than myself than the Spirit of God?) I thought I would ask for wisdom, ministry fruitfulness, or a deeper prayer life. Instead I found myself crying out, “Don’t reject me or abandon me!”
At that moment a dam broke inside of me and I became flooded with emotions that I didn’t know I could feel. I realized that for so many years I have been operating out of deep fear of being rejected. I was not of afraid of rejection by just anybody. My fear centered on those whom I loved. I was afraid of being rejected by those I love the most.
For example, I have been working an extra 20-30 hours per week (on top of my regular 50) for the last several months because of this fear of rejection. I have several people on staff that I love and I figured if I worked so hard they could stay and wouldn’t reject me. I figured that if I worked hard and succeeded then my family, whom I love with all my being, would love me and not reject me. The ironic thing is that loving out of a fear of rejection is counterproductive. The more I operate from this fear the farther I drive people away.
So much was being revealed to me so fast that I couldn’t write it all down. Then all of a sudden it slowed down and a new truth hit. God revealed to me that I had been rejecting His love for me and had been withholding my love from Him. I had decided in my inmost being, that place we rarely have eyes to see, that if I loved God fully then He would reject and abandon me. Where had this come from?
When I was a small child my parents decided that they couldn’t make things work and my dad dropped us off in Oklahoma and left. That year is erased from my memory. My father had rejected me. It is absolutely amazing to me how much our childhood relationships affect us 20 years later. The Lord showed me that I was assuming He loved and would love the same way my father did and does. Everything I have done since I was a child has been motivated by a fear of rejection.
“Perfect love drives out fear,” John tells us. Now that my eyes have been open to a new reality I get to live into that reality. What will it be like to be a husband and father without the fear of rejection? What will it look like to serve Jesus as a local pastor without the fear of rejection? What will it be like to live into God’s all expansive love for me without the fear of rejection? God has shown me my stream in the desert.