The Road Less Traveled

Many years ago while hunting elk in a wilderness area of Colorado, a sudden fall snowstorm hit, dropping a foot of snow in a couple of hours. I didn’t have a GPS, and I was depending on a trail I had never used before, which was now completely covered in snow. I lost my bearings. A feeling of panic and concern came over me. I was miles away from camp without any observable physical structures for a reference. All I could depend on was my compass.

 

Have you ever found yourself disoriented? Disoriented comes from the word “orient,” the root form of orienteering. To be disoriented is to lose a sense of direction. Losing a sense of direction is one of the most frightening experiences we can ever undergo.

 

On November 23, 2013, the board of elders at Mountain Springs Church, the church I founded almost twenty years ago, put me on a forced leave of absence. In the coming weeks I was handed a list of grievances from the pastors against my character and leadership that shocked and hurt me deeply. My first reaction was to defend myself and rationalize away these concerns. But over time, God began his work of conviction and breaking.

 

For the next three months I fasted, prayed, sought counsel from trusted mentors, confessed my sins to the board, cried out to God, went on several retreats, read eight books, and attempted to give myself completely to God. The Holy Spirit took me into what St. John of the Cross spoke of as the “dark night of the soul.” God broke me. His loving graceful hand was upon me.

 

I found the words of David in Psalm 51 particularly poignant,

 

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

And cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions,

And my sin is always before me.[1]

 

As I began to acknowledge the dark prideful places of my heart, I was repulsed. I could see as far back as my early years in school, how I had found such significance and security in my accomplishments, my achievements, and my successes. As I looked deeper I found a man who needed human approval and exaltation for self worth. As I dug further, I discovered one who had a spiritual façade but not a deep intimate grace filled relationship with Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Jesus and I had an ongoing walk with him, but something was missing at a deeper level.

 

A road was forming in my heart, a road of healing, a road of acceptance. Then a breakthrough came. Through the work of Henri Nouwen in his classic book Life of the Beloved, the Spirit of God met me at a new heart level. He writes,

 

You are beloved…It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout, ‘You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody—unless you can demonstrate the opposite. These negative voices are so loud and persistent that it is easy to believe them. That’s the great trap. The trap of self-rejection. Over the years I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection…

When I realized my self-rejection, repented and accepted that I was beloved in Christ, all I can say is that a new understanding of God’s grace and mercy flowed into my heart. For the first time in my life, I could accept, not run from or avoid, all of the darkness, sin, and self-rejection that I’m aware of—I surrendered them to Christ.

Since that time, God has continued to show me so many prideful, arrogant, egotistical areas of my life. It has been excruciatingly difficult to face my brokenness, yet also deeply freeing. My heart is gradually getting set free.

Simultaneously, the Lord spoke to Liz and me seven times over five months of a “road less traveled.” As the months passed, it became apparent to us and our mentors, that God was moving us into a new ministry, a new work of His Spirit. As a result, I resigned from Mountain Springs Church in March.

Isaiah captures well this new road,

A highway shall be there, and a road,

And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean shall not pass over it,

But it shall be for others.

Whoever walks the road, although a fool,

Shall not go astray.[2]

I’ve been busted by God but beloved in Christ. I’m a fool. I’m a ragamuffin pastor. I’m a recovering “pride-aholic.” But God is doing something new in my heart, and he has us on a road less traveled.

If you feel led to join us, we are seeking God for 40 nights of prayer and teaching at the Jericho Center at Every Home for Christ, starting this Monday night, April 7th, at 6:30pm. We are asking him to reveal more details about a road less traveled. We will worship, pray, and I will teach through the Gospel of Mark, entitling it, “The Messy Gospel.”

Steve

[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Ps 51:2–3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Is 35:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.