Pursuing God In the Dark Places of the Heart

I was raised in an evangelical context that spoke of “pursuing God.” It was an elusive concept, one without clear definition. Pursuing God, they said, required us to follow God wherever he might go. Here’s what the good folks never told me, though: sometimes pursuing God requires that we follow him into the dark places of your own heart.

Today I’m sharing about this very pursuit at the High Calling. I write:

In his famous Psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, David recognizes this failure of inner pursuit, and he cries out for the mercy of God. He writes, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (ESV). These words serve as a reminder: failure to follow God inwardly, failure to sit with him in the pain and darkness of the “secret heart,” can be the very thing that leads us to miss God altogether.

Would you join me at The High Calling to discuss pursuing God in the dark places of the Heart? I’d love to hear your thoughts there.

*Photo by Jayel Aheram, Creative Commons via Flickr.

 

*****

OCTOBER’S TINY LETTER IS HERE!

Sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October’s Edition, I’m musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington’s are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth’s new book, Speak. Don’t miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I’ll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Aschalew Abebe: A Celebration of a Good Man

I said to Amber, “if I have one fear, it’s that I will not live an interesting life.” She smiled, patted my arm gently, and said, “I don’t think you have to worry about that. Think of all of the wonderful people you’ve met in all the wonderful places.”

Amber is right.

I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by good folks who are engaging in good work. Some of them live in my local context; others live oceans away. Today, I’d like to introduce you to my friend Aschalew Abebe. He is a rare gem.

*****

We rattle down the washed-out road from Welkite to Gunchire as the sun slips behind the eucalyptus groves and kisses the horizon. Kilometers are marked in clusters of thatched-roofed huts and mosque minarets. I’m jostled side to side, and every pothole we hit sends a jolt through my lower back.

“How much farther?” I ask.

“About 10 kilometers,” Aschalew says, as if I have the ability to convert rickety kilometers to some measurement of time. He laughs, “What’s wrong? This road is not smooth enough for you?”

I tell him it is fine, and his eyebrows lift. The edges of his mouth, too. He says, “I know you are lying, my friend.” He changes the subject as if to distract me from the road. “Do you remember the first time we met?”

“Yes,” I say, recalling that night almost four years gone by.

Continue reading at In Touch.

*Photograph by Scott Wade, via In Touch.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Recovery Room: Desire’s Siren

Welcome to the Recovery Room. Today, I’m writing on the process of recovery from any-old dependency at A Deeper Story. Will you join me? And for more Recovery Room pieces, follow this link.

*****

At 4:00 in the morning on September 21st, 2014, I passed the mile-marker—it had been one year since I took my last drink.

As writers are prone to do, I sat in on oversized chair on the morning of the 21st, and considered the occasion. I’ve made a great deal of progress over the past year. I’ve learned to identify the anxieties that trigger my desire to drink—family illness, career stress, church cynicism. I’ve learned to confront those anxieties head-on, learned to sit in them and ask that a good and abiding God would meet me and speak quiet truth. I’ve learned to avoid numbing discomfort with liquor.

I reflected on these things, and along with a sense of accomplishment, pride began to well up. With this pride came creeping notions.

Maybe I’m strong enough to handle a drink now.

Certainly I know the tricks to stop at one glass of whiskey.

If I’m not drinking to numb the pain, then what’s the harm in a drink?

I could slip across the street and buy just one forty ounce beer; no one would have to know.

Continue reading at A Deeper Story.

 

*Photo by Michael Johnson, Creative Commons via Flickr.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Recovery Room: Approval Addiction (A Guest Post by Jennifer Dukes Lee)

Welcome to the Recovery Room.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: we’re all recovering from something. Maybe it’s booze, pills, sex, eating, puking, exercise, theology, or trumped up religiosity. Maybe it’s material, power, or the need to be seen as competent. We push pain back with our vices of choice, don’t we? Be honest.

Allow me to introduce you to Jennifer Dukes Lee, my friend who enters the Recovery Room and confesses that she is an approval addict. JDL is a published author who’s pushing into her own recovery with a rare authenticity. Enjoy her story, then head over to her site for more.

*****

I feel an old anxiety rising up in me, as I tap at these computer keys.

Maybe this is how a recovering alcoholic would feel if she walked into a dimly lit tavern, where ice cubes clink against glass and the bartender counts out the glug-glug-glugs from a tipped bottle.

Someone else will have to tell me if I’m right—if this is how a recovering alcoholic would feel in a bar. (And maybe it all depends on the day.)

I can’t say for sure, because booze isn’t my vice.

Your approval is.

Let me tell what I’m feeling as I step inside, leaning my back against a wood-paneled wall illuminated by a collage of neon signs. I can already taste it, how badly I want it: Your approval and acceptance. I know how it feels on the way down—like a familiar, comfortable burn to appease my inner addict, my inner pain.

I have a two-faced heart: I both want what I want, and yet I don’t want it at all.

All the world’s a tavern, it seems, and maybe we’re all thirsty for something that we know won’t do us any good.

I don’t belly up to this bar for a whiskey. I don’t pay much attention to whether they’re serving IPAs or Pabst. I’m paying attention to the faces. Your faces. Who’s in this room today? And does what I have to say make me worth listening to?
I see you, and I wonder if you will swivel in your seats to see me. They call it “being known” these days.

I’m not proud to admit how often I have wanted to “be known.” I’ve wanted to make a good impression, especially around smart folks like you.

I’ve been coming clean from that, and God knows it hasn’t been easy. Dying daily never is. Maybe it’s the way someone comes clean from alcohol dependency, one day at a time. It’s both painful and exhilarating—like you’re breathing air into your lungs for the first time in your life.

It’s how a daily death makes you more alive.

///

My friend, Seth, and I have been talking about that—about how recovery is universal.

Recovery isn’t just for the drinkers and the users.

It’s for me.

Let me tell you what I’ve been recovering from:

Let’s say my heart was a beer stein or a wine glass. I’ve spent a lot of my life holding the heart-cup out to people like you, hoping you’d fill it by telling me that I’m kind, that I’m smart, that I’ve got something important to say. That I matter.

I want you to say good things about me when the saloon doors swing closed behind me after I leave. (But I assume the worst.)

I have figured your good words would save me from my inner addict—the one who has feared rejection, of being “found out,” and of assuming that I don’t really belong in whatever room I’ve been invited into. I’ve been a poster child of “imposter syndrome.”

After years of imposter living, a person can barely tell where the mask stops and the skin starts. And it can take a good long while to find the “real you” again.

I’m in the middle of finding me.

I’m in the middle of my do-over.

///

The other day, Seth wished us all a Happy Easter from The Recovery Room. I smiled a knowing smile.

Because every morning is Easter morning where I live. Easter is how I live in the tavern of this world, and still function without asking for another glass of whatever I think will numb the ache.

I don’t need to numb the ache. I need to understand the ache. I need to feel the ache, and then ask God to help me deal with it. Every day, I ask myself hard questions, like the ones the Apostle Paul asked: “Am I now trying to win the approval of man, or of God? Or am I still trying to please man?”

I used to think that I’d wake up some day and then it would be gone. Poof! I wouldn’t want your approval anymore.

But my recovery? It’s ongoing. I have learned that I am in the constant process of coming clean. I am caught between who I once was, and who I will be.

I’m learning not to resent the process, because my recovery makes me needy for Jesus, needy for Easter.

In my childhood church, we sang this song throughout the Lenten season: “Every morning is Easter morning from now. Every day’s Resurrection Day the past is over and gone.”

I want to live every morning like it’s Easter morning, like a fresh coming-alive. I also want to live like it’s Good Friday, because I have to die to live.

The world has never known another god like this—a God who loves sinners, who says, “I’m giving you a do-over.”

The same God will say the very same thing tomorrow. Isn’t that something?

In my recovery, I need a God like that.

And thanks be to Jesus, I have one.

*****

JDL HeadshotJennifer Dukes Lee is the author of Love Idol, a book that chronicles her own story of recovery. The book helps people dismantle what’s separating them from true connection with God and experience the freedom of a life lived in authentic love.

Photo by Seth Anderson, Creative Commons via Flickr.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Best Books for Business: Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems

The following is an excerpt from my most recent piece of The High Calling:

In the real world, the market functions to maximize profit, and sometimes operational principles affect real people. In the real world, dollars and cents are often the measure of greatness, not the integrity of the process. In the real world, all of those business books offering the keys to success fall just a little short in one regard—they tend to focus on monetary success without regard to neighbors, nature, and quality of life.

It’s true: each of those books prepared me a little more for my life as an American businessman—they taught me to consider costs, to identify bottlenecks, and to effectively communicate organizational goals. For that I’m grateful. But where these books fell short, I found a supplement: Wendell Berry’s Collected Poems: 1957-1982.

You can read the piece in its entirety by following the link. Won’t you join me?

 

Featured image by Adam Wilson. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

powered by TinyLetter
Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

© Copyright - Seth Haines