Wanting to Extinguish What Must Be Explored, Pt. 2
I remember the moment when my calling to minister within a congregational context solidified its hold on me.
As I recall, it was a moment filled with complexity and confusion. It was a moment that required soul-searching prayer and heart-piercing surrender.
The prayer and surrender piece took all night.
It was a chilly wintry evening, really down-right cold.
I was a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, entering my final three semesters, preparing to pursue a Ph.D. with plans to enter the academic world and build my career as a teacher/writer.
I was also a volunteer youth leader for an organization called Young Life.
One evening, after a bitterly cold (but beautiful) outing with our Young Life Club, I entered my dorm room, peeled off layer after layer of clothing, and then collapsed to the floor.
The collapse lead to an entire night of prayer and seeking.
A night in which Christ would resolve the tension I’d been unwilling to name!
I Couldn’t Escape the Nagging Sensation
I am relatively gifted when it comes to initiating, planning, organizing, and implementing ideas, goals, and objectives.
So, when I entered the season of life in which career choices were being made, I employed this set of skills to help me move forward. After a series of well-thought-out arguments and in-depth conversations with people far wiser than me, I set out on a course of study that would prepare me for a career in a University setting.
And, while the course load was challenging and rigorous, I loved it. Yet, I couldn’t escape this nagging sensation – deep within – that something was not quite right.
Rather than exploring it, I sought to extinguish it.
The nagging sensation just would not go away. It was more pronounced when I was ministering to youth in the Salem/Ipswich area near the school.
Finally, when I could no longer contain or ignore the tension, I collapsed on the floor and begged God to show me what I couldn’t see for myself.
Slow, Steady, Sure Walk Back Into His Presence
Then, through the night, He slowly, tenderly, and steadfastly walked me through dozens of Scripture verses and old journal entries that lead me to the truth that I was unwilling to acknowledge: His calling on my life was to serve the local church exclusively.
This calling, though clear, always scared me. I didn’t have parents in the ministry so a ‘model’ for ministry wasn’t in my personal history. My father was a successful businessman. Though he and my mother supported my calling (and funded my education), we all thought that I would eventually partner with him in the business and ultimately call it my own.
Even now, while that life wasn’t for me, I realized that choosing the University over the congregational setting was another example of my struggle with the order of my loves.
As the Lord walked me through that night and into the next morning, I began to see that I loved my own name, reputation, future, and career, more than I loved Him.
As such, these loves drowned out greater loves and the greatest love of them all – which is the love He has for me.
When I got off the floor the next morning, I looked out onto the sunrise and knew, like I’d never known before, that the best life for me is the life in which God became my chief end and being satisfied in Him became my greatest pursuit.
Personally, that meant a life of ministry. Specifically within a congregational setting.
We all have moments like that one. Maybe yours weren’t as dramatic as mine was, but you’ve had them nonetheless. They are moments that shape the course of our life because they determine the shape of our loves.
We Must Each Decide if We Will Live For Beauty or Become the Beast!
At one point in Scrooge’s journey with the Ghost of Christmas Past the reader witnesses a pivotal exchange between Belle and Scrooge.
This exchange reveals the moment when Scrooge chose the loves that shaped him into the miser he had become!
Scrooge witnesses this moment and recognizes it as a moment when greed became his God.
As the chapter draws to a close, the reader is introduced to Belle, Scrooge’s girl-friend who has, over time, discovered that other more powerful loves have replaced the love she offers.
It’s a courageous scene of a young woman coming of age, realizing that the man beside her is not the man he used to be.
She’s come to realize that it’s now time for her to release him from the obligation they made years earlier.
Rather than continuing to hope for what will not be or pretending that what actually is, isn’t, Belle faces this reality and tells Scrooge – in the most polite of ways – to hit the road. When he questions her, she lets him know that it’s his loves, not hers, that have changed. As his loves have changed she realizes that she will never be enough.
Asking for evidence of this changed nature, Scrooge demands to know in what manner, exactly, she’s noticed this change. To which she replies,
“’. . . in a changed nature; an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him, ‘tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!’”
Screaming to the Ghost: Haunt Me No More
Scrooge was unable or unwilling to resist her logic.
Knowing she was right, he ceased his argument.
As the apparition and present-day Scrooge observe this most pitiful moment, it’s as if we can see that Scrooge now recognizes it as the moment he moved from a beauty he once loved to the beast he’s now become.
Overcome with grief by the past he has experienced, he begs the ghost – yet again – “haunt me no more.”
Finally, we come to the end of this terrible and life-changing chapter.
When the ghost has done its job and fulfilled its task, it allows Scrooge to ‘cap’ the light which has seared life into his heart.
Even as Scrooge extinguishes the light, the faint glimmer of one beam remains in play. This glimmer serves as a reminder that what you cannot extinguish must be explored.
Exploring Our Past In and By the Light
It must be explored by and in the light.
Then, after Scrooge has explored his past in the presence of the light, he falls to sleep.
Dickens gives an indication that it’s a sleep unlike any he’s experienced in years. Yet another beautiful nod to the realization that rest comes to those who have been wearied by the exploration of the past that inexplicably haunts our present.
I leave you with this final scene and pray that you may find rest as well!
“Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!” In the struggle—if that can be called a struggle in which the Ghost, with no visible resistance on its own part, was undisturbed by any effort of its adversary—Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the extinguisher cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head. The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but, though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it in an unbroken flood upon the ground. He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed before he sank into a heavy sleep.”
Thank God we cannot hide the light.
For it’s the light, after all, that allows us to rest and offers hope of renewal!
Disrupting to Renew!
Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol (Kindle Locations 906-912). Jovian Press. Kindle Edition