“I am like a weaned child…” ~ Psalm 131:2b
As I shared with you a lament based on my current circumstances earlier this week, I thought I’d also share with you another lament I wrote over 5 years ago as part of a Psalms class I took while in seminary. I still appreciate this lament from 5 years ago, even though quite a bit of time has passed and things are different now. Where my earlier lament this week was more about desired revival, this first lament I’ve ever written came from a sense of deprival. At the time I was feeling deprived of by God, or like I was being weaned…
At the time I wrote this lament I was experiencing something I was unfamiliar with in my Christian faith; and it was at the point where it felt like an eternity. I became a Christian in September 1999 and for years following that I had a closeness with God I never could’ve imagined. Sure there were times since then that I lamented feeling distance from God, but nothing like what I was experiencing at this time in my seminary experience. I virtually entered seminary as still a baby Christian, and I didn’t know how I would “grow up” there as well.
Seminary (at Western Theological Seminary) began in August 2005, and I was pretty excited initially. I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that God actually called me. What was he thinking? I still marvel at the thought today.
In many ways I loved my first year of seminary. I only had a few classes as I began on a part-time basis. I remember Scripture coming even more alive to me as I sat, learned, and studied in my Old Testament introductory course. I also had my first stab at a preaching course and Greek that year as well. Yes, Greek was even mind-blowing to me in many ways. Did I mention I met my future wife that year too 😉 ? Lastly, I also remember enjoying my first internship as a youth intern at a nearby, small Reformed church. Sure, not everything was easy (not by a long shot!), and I had my hardships, but It seemed like I was well on my way, and that God was paving the way magnificently. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I would experience during the summer between my 1st and 2nd years of seminary though, however…
I’ll save you all the details, but that summer I accepted a position as a Site Director within a youth missions organization called YouthWorks. I traveled to a rural community in North Carolina where me (I was 26 at the time) and three other 19-20 year old staff members attempted to run a missions site for the summer where youth groups from around the U.S. would travel to for a mission trip experience serving the surrounding community. I had my reservations going into this experience, but I was ready to give it a whirl and believed God would help me through.
Well, half way through the summer things weren’t going well at all! Issues grew within our staff team, and by this time I was at a loss as to what to do after trying so hard and continually coming up dry for multiple weeks. I was about out of gas… Then I was basically relieved of my position while given the option to either go home, or stay and fill one of the other staff positions at the site as one of my original staff members was also fired the same weekend. I appreciated them asking me to stay, but I was completely spent and decided to return home for the rest of the summer.
I believe it was this experience that kicked off a period of at least two years where I felt as if I was being weaned by God. Understanding this experience would prove to be very hard during the months ahead. How could something like this happen when God so blatantly called me into ministry just a couple years prior? From that moment on, I continued on in seminary, however, I never felt sure of exactly what God was doing or where he was much of the time going forward.
After sharing all of this, you could almost say my current circumstances are quite similar to this in many ways. After two short-lived pastorates following seminary, I am once again at a place of questioning and wonder. However, things are different right now as well. I believe I can tell that I am not as bothered right now as I was then. My faith is stronger in many ways. The thought of giving up as well has not really been on my radar presently. Just as Nicodemus was confused about entering the womb again to be born a second time (see John 3), the concept of being weaned again in my mid-twenties was the farthest thing from my mind. Little did know that it too is part of living within the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). Without further ado, here is the lament…
“To you, O’ Lord, I call out.
It is you that has my trust and dependence;
Hear my cry and answer my longing.
Lord, there are things I face to which I don’t understand.
God, why do I still struggle in this land?
I am older now in my faith and journey with you;
Why the persistent captivity
And felt distance from you?
You are the one who in the past led me out of despair and lostness;
You gave me hope
And a sense of purpose.
You brought to life vocational longing and helped me to dream.
Now, as I have followed your Spirit, I feel weaned (Psalm 131).
Weaned from the sense of a child nurtured by your milk;
Weaned from the sense of your hand upon my being;
Weaned from the ability to sense your leading.
I don’t understand the wisdom behind the particular state I am in.
I do, however, believe in your faithfulness
And continued work throughout and within.
Lord, come and imprint yourself on my soul again (Psalm 35:3b).
Take up your child and nurture and lead.
Lord, what you have planted,
Come water the seed.
Great are you Lord, and most worthy of praise.
You stand exalted all of my days.
You have been my rock,
My redeemer of ages past.
May my soul take heart in courage;
Hoping in you until the days of last.”