The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
Weaning off dependence
Psalm 107:6-7 (NIV)
“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.”
Having arrived in El Paso, I wondered what this place would bring in terms of spiritual life? There was a Navigator Student Ministry in Las Cruces, 45 miles north, I could tie up with them, though it did seem unrealistically far away. There would be the churches and that seemed to be the most likely source of support.
As often, things turned out differently than expected. I tried ringing Mick, the leader of the ministry in Las Cruces only to be told by an electronic voice: “The 911 emergency service is not yet in service.” I just could not get through. Meanwhile I looked for a churches. The hunt began going to a new church each Sunday. Wherever I went, I felt spiritual culture shock. I had expected culture shock from the normal culture, but the greatest shock was with the culture of the Christians. Being a very friendly people, they offered me very practical support. But I did not feel at home there and did not want to make any commitments to a group that I was not comfortable with so I declined their offers.
This state of confusion and lostness inevitably brought a spiritual price. I was desperately missing fellowship, and without the stimulation of others my relationship with God was going down hill. I had all this time available when I got home from work with no friends and no car to get about town with, so surely I should be able to spend time praying and reading the Bible. Yet here the emptiness that came with loneliness wanted to be filled with something else. It was hard to spend time with God while my soul was shouting out so loudly. Bit by bit, by the grace of God, I managed to read and study the Bible a bit. I fell far short of the expectations I had built up for myself in Edinburgh but gradually overcame and God was there to meet me.
I had a dream: I was married and had a baby when the mother died. I went off to a shop to get milk for the baby, but everywhere I went all of the milk had names on. It was all for someone else. There was nothing for the baby. I felt that this was exactly what I was experiencing spiritually. The ministry in Scotland was the mother and she was gone. The baby was my spiritual life and it was suffering from malnutrition.
Having my spiritual condition brought home to me, I prayed for mercy and God in his great mercy heard me. He had brought me to the end of myself, to the end of my spiritual capabilities, to my dependence on others. The only one I had left to turn to was him. It is amazing how resistant I can be to asking him for help. When I called out to him He answered me. Not that my prayer times suddenly became easy, but at least they began to happen. Then having looked to him for mercy he graciously brought me to a group I could understand.
It was not long after that I heard: “The 911 emergency service is not yet in service.” on the phone at work. The secretary explained that you had to dial one before dialling long distance. I could hardly wait to get home and call Mick. He told me that a new ministry had opened up in El Paso and gave a phone number for Jim the leader. I phoned Jim and arranged a lift to the next meeting. When I got there it was like coming home! I could understand, I could identify. God in his great mercy had taken away what I desperately wanted until I was ready to call to him for help instead of to what I felt I needed. Then he gave it back better than I could have expected. A new ministry, with new possibilities, and in the same city.