Sometimes the best way to find what you're looking for is to let go of what you already have. Mike Steele, a former computer entrepreneur and then a major facilitator for the house church movement in North America joins in a conversation with Brad and Wayne about the transformations in his life. In the busyness of his high-profile "ministry", Mike was able to recognize the emptiness on the inside and instead of grasping for what he thought he wanted, he let God unravel his life in a most amazing way. Now, no longer fitting anyone's expectations for his life, Mike has gone on an amazing journey to discover what a real relationship with God looks like. He and his wife, Chris, live in Colorado Springs.
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Wow!!! After an exceptonally painful week I’m so thankful to hear the conversation and the sharing of Marks’s story. The parallels are remarkable and Father knew the timing for me to hear this. The issue of validation, other people’s misunderstandings and “staying at peace there” as Brad put it…resonated so powerfully. This is an affirmaton once again of what Jesus was already showing me. “Come to Me….other people will be put in place at the right time. Come to Me.” Thank you all for the encouragement. Blessings.
What can I say? the most profound testimony I heard this year. Haven’t visited this site for weeks and today I got a hunch to come here and bam! this amazing testimony that urges us to live in freedom. I am glad i visited today, got a reminder why i fell in love with this blog in the first place. Thanks guys for sharing this, it goes a long way to encourage some of us to continue to let go, in a world where everything around u pressures u to continue to work hard for yourself for God and everything thing else. God is still working in the lives of His children, I am encouraged to continue to trust his heart.
This has really blessed me, I’ve been trying to get away from the performance based life and just spend time with Papa, but since I’ve been taught that we all have a ”mission” in life we need to fulfill, I keep thinking that I’m goofing off, I’m not ”doing” anything for God. It is so freeing to realize he might just want to spend time with me. I think sometimes it must be like having your kids come to visit you and all you want to do is sit and talk with them, but they think they need to be mowing your yard, washing the dishes, cleaning the house-because they are doing things ”for you”. They think that’s what you want….not just sit and talk with them.
Sounds very very familiar in experience and emotion 🙂
Thanks for the telling of the story Mike
Today I listened to about five minutes of the podcast before my kids interrupted with other things. I’m glad they did because I was on my way to a conversation with someone that sounded remarkably similar to this one. At least with many of the same keywords. When I came back to finish listening, I did not expect to hear exactly what I needed. I’ve never been more grateful to hear freedom like this. I will lean into the unraveling with less fear and more room to listen. It is hard to imagine that peace can come at the end of everything. For me, it seems like failure at every turn, in every relationship. A long life of religiosity I thought was “helping” was in fact a lie. I believed I was committed to the truth, but it was a way to get something for myself. I caused division, hurt others, my own family not the least. I feel sick, but deeply relieved to know that this could be the bottom I could push off from. The ways of escape that were familiar are less available with no people and no money. My husband who travels and speaks about truth and freedom, the real stuff, came to deeply understand grace a while ago. He is kind to engage with me in my resistance as long as I’m moving toward truth. Sometimes he gets weary though. Yesterday I drove him to the airport (again) and he asked me what I did with this process when he is gone. I told him I talk to God. It’s possible that God loves me enough to shut off all ways of escape so the untangling can continue. Thanks for the peaceful presence of this story. I feel ready to move into my own with a bit more trust and faith as a result.
What a beautiful testimony! Very recognizable and encouraging!
Thank you Mike for sharing!
Flies, fish and Father. Sounds like a plan…
Remember those folks who always went to the lake on Sunday, and they said they could worship God out in nature better than they could sitting cooped up inside a church building?
We used to call them “backsliders”. But I think maybe they were on to something… 😉
Thank you Mike, for sharing what you have experienced so far of Father’s love on your journey. I can relate to the heart of what you said even though I have come to the place of being lovingly undone from a very different set of circumstances.
(Note to Brad – this can happen to us driven women too:). I fell into the performance/driven trap with my Type A personality while being a homeschool mom of five children. After “retiring” from25 years of that job, I was totally lost regarding my purpose and sense of significance. My Father has revealed Himself in ways I never imagined possible through a deep depression which prevented me from functioning in any of the ways in which I defined myself in the past. I am so thankful for the continuing unfolding of God’s love for me whether I ever accomplish another thing in this life. The message of He Loves Me becomes more real each time I read it!
Thanks to you Wayne and Brad for the podcast!
I’m back (the first Sue) and I realized that in typing my little note, I mistakenly called Mike “Mark”. Hopefully not the worst he’s been called..(smile) : ) but wanted to make the correction. It seems that it’s so important to get names right! Thank you Wayne and Brad for the encouragement and Mike..thanks for sharing your story. Blessings
I had to listen to the podcast a second time because I was crying through it the first time around. Thanks to Mike for your transparency and sharing even the painful stuff that you have dealt with and continue to walk through. It was very encouraging in a bittersweet way. I related to feeling lied to for 30 years and I appreciated Brad’s comments that the people that said what they said were not intentionally lying – just didn’t know any better/different. Also loved Mike’s comment about developing his hearing/disire to connect w/God and also with people. Thanks for sharing from your heart of hearts. The theme of living from my heart has been coming up to me a lot lately. Afterall, scripture says that we are to believe from the heart. Thanks again to all of you. This podcast really means a lot to me.
Freedom schmeedom. You can get just as much thinking done while digging a ditch as you can while fishing. You can bask in the glow of Father’s love when you’re pleasantly asking someone “do you want fries with that?”.
I understand the need to get off the treadmill and I understand the release from the bondage of what we often call “life”. But, I would be willing to wager that the wife and daughter are not happy about this turn of events. Loving? Understanding? Yes, but not happy. And in my experience, humans have limits to our love and understanding.
I’m praying for Mike to find real freedom soon.
Russ, you make some harsh judgments there without any knowledge of the actual situation. While what you say might be true of your family in a similar situation, or even many others, it is not true in this case. I spent the weekend with Mike and his wife and she is convinced she is doing what Father has asked of her and there is great joy between them. The daughter and son-in-law are also incredibly supportive and he read me some texts from her that came through over the weekend. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to find themselves fly-fishing, or their freedom in God that way. And Mike had only been fly-fishing five times over the past season, so if he left the impression he does it every day, that wasn’t a fair reflection.
Believe me this time has not been easy for Mike, but they have all embraced this obedience wholeheartedly and what will come out of it is a way for them to move forward in the Father’s provision. This is not vacation, it is learning to come inside the Father’s work and that is far more challenging that most know. Certainly, what they are doing is not normal, nor would I advise it for others, but I’m convinced it is what Father is doing in the and don’t mind standing beside them with encouragement and affirmation.
I’d like to address the comments Russ Reese made. I am Mike’s daughter, and before you ask, no I wasn’t put up to this, I’ve been following the comments on this podcast.
Regarding your “wager”, well, you lose.
No, this journey isn’t easy, God never said it would be easy, but opening my home to my parents in this season has been nothing but a joy and it was what my husband and I felt in our hearts God would have us do.
To say I am not happy would be a complete lie. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed my dad’s transformation from the “religious” to a free man and a true disciple of Christ. Jesus said to his disciples, leave behind your earthly possessions and follow me, and I believe that that’s exactly what my dad has done. The joy in my heart over the huge change in the way my father thinks and speaks is indiscribable. His journey has also freed me from worrying about the world’s judgement, or what should be expected of me. I’m free to look at my life through heaven’s eyes.
I am so blessed to be able to have this time in this season to be a part of my father’s journey in Christ. He has allowed me to speak into his life and I have heard God speak through me. I have felt that this is exactly what my dad needed to get closer to God, God has lead him down this path, and this is where he should be. How could knowing my dad is following God’s plan for his life ever become a burden?
Speaking from what I have observed, and the conversations I have with my mom, she is also in complete agreement with where we are, and is also happy with my dad’s choices and her role at this particular stage of the journey. Her support of my father, her happiness with where they are is a great encouragement to me. They continue to show me how to live in a healthy relationship in Christ. My parents have been even more gentle and receptive of each other in this time, when you would think it would strain relationships. We are not at all strained, we are filled with happiness.
I cannot stress enough how blessed I am to be going through this journey with my family. We are all loving, and understanding of one another, but most of all, we are happy.
Thank you to everyone for your encouraging comments, it has meant so much to our family in the last few days to have this message received by so many. We hope that each of you will find the great release in your own journey of letting go, whatever it may be.
Russ, sometimes it seems like people are making decisions that seems to be not very responsable towards their closest family. 3 years ago, we moved from Belgium to South-France, believing that God was calling us to work in a christian family-retrait centre. I left a (well-payed) dream-teaching job, family and friends, without any security, only in faith that God would take care of us. There was (almost) nobody who believed/understood us. We arrived in a small village without job, and the doors of the retrait center closing before our nose. In one of the poorest regions of France, in 2008. The only people who “cared” for us were trying to get us in their pentacostal church, because they needed a “worshipleader”. But we felt that God didn’t want us there, and chosed not to go there. Next months, I was alone spending hours walking in the vineyards of the Languedoc, desperate, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take care of my wife and kids anymore. Wondering if I should go back to Belgium, where I could pick up my former job immediately, if I wanted.
It was there that God started showing me who He really is, and as a loving Father wanted to take care of me and my family.
Me either, I would never recommand anybody to take the same decisions I did. But I also recognise that very often God reveals His love in periods of dessert, when there is nobody (except my wife, who always stood behind me) to put your trust in, than Himself. This journey is not always easy, but the freedom it gives to rely on His Love, is something I never want to lose any more! My children are young teenagers now, but I think they’ve picked up some of the things that my loving wife and I have learned on this journey, too!
Gert! For goodness sake, don’t leave us in suspense!
What happened? How did God come through for you and your family?
It’s a long story. But in short: the moment I decided to stay and completely trust in Him (during that time a friend gave me the books of Wayne, which were very encouraging at that time), little by little, we got work here (I teach again), and God also provided in friends (brothers and sisters) who were inviting us, outsite the traditional church system.
It seems that we are a bit of a sound-board for these (christian) brothers and sisters here, who are (still) suffering from manipulations and abuses between eachother and from this christian retrait-center in the past.
But we are also learning to just love our neighbours in the village. There is some “attraction” to our family, also through our children, that I don’t always understand, but I guess it’s just the love of God, and that’s amazing…
Really good podcast.
One thing that struck me was Mike’s coined phrase “Jesus is a blabbermouth.” As much as I resonated with most of Mike’s story, this strikes me as untrue, and actually antithetical to what Mike (and the rest of us!) are after. It suggests that if you are not hearing Christ speak, than you’re doing something wrong. That, to me, puts one right back on the performance treadmill. I’m still learning to live conversationally with God, but in my experience there are definitely times when God is not giving me new information. Others have confirmed this, saying, “Sometimes God just wants me to spend time with him NOT talking.” I also recall something Dallas Willard said:
“Most often, the Holy Spirit leads in thoughtful silence, physical repose, and reflective prayer. He is not a “chatty Cathy;” he will not overwhelm us, but will speak to us in unguarded moments.”
Grain of salt etc. etc.
Love your thoughts. The comment was meant to remind me that God was always there with me, knowing the answer I was looking for before I asked, and should I posture myself toward Him, He would direct my path. I agree that to strive in listening would be the antithesis of what we are speaking about. Sometimes, off the cuff statements don’t always translate well. Thanks for pointing that out.
Your comments remind me that God has often spoken in the silence. It is the “stilling” of our hearts that brings sweet communion and a “knowing” that transcends language. As you point out, there are times when it isn’t new information He is bringing to me. I love your sentence about the Holy Spirit leading in thoughtful silence, physical repose and reflective prayer. I would be pleased to substitute that for my phrase that doesn’t quite say what I am meaning or sensing. Thanks for your thoughful response and clarifying comments.
Very encouraging guys. I have run a business for 21 years. The demands are seemingly endless while the rewards are seemingly few. I have often felt trapped by it knowing that if I were to follow the same path that Mike has taken, lots of people would be without income. It is easy to think we have such an important role in life that we can’t let go. It is a big step to take.
I also get what you are saying as well Russ. Not as much was said from Mikes families perspective. Not surprising as that was not the focus of the podcast. I actually have both Russ’s voice and Mikes voice in my head. They are not at odds with each other they just each bring valid points to the conversation.
Yet a third contingent and understandably unaddressed thought crossed my mind; that Mike could afford to take this much time because of his previous successes and investments. I abandoned that thought because it is irrelevant to the lesson. For some one like Mike to simply stop, it takes more than money can buy to do that. It also takes more than the shame of poverty to overcome the pressure I imagine Mike has felt trying to call him back to an improper sense of responsiblity. Being Jesus in a hopeless world is one thing, being savior to that world, or some small part of it is just deadly. I know that role all to intimately to discount its power to destroy.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing your journey. Everything you said resonated with me. I, too, remember the anger, but I have to say that I am now at peace with it. I don’t know if I could rest where I am now without what had happened then. I am just beginning to realize my expendablity, totally available to whatever He has for me. I am excited about what God is doing in your life! Please keep us posted.
I lost the wager, now I’ll try to pay…. I apologize to Mike and his family for speaking without knowing all the facts. God’s blessing on you all.
Who ever knows all the facts Russ. I heard the friendly side of your comments. It is supposed to be afn ever expanding conversation ya know. You made a good contribution.
I agree, Alan. Russ’ comments invited both input from Mike’s daughter, and more from Mike. That cave a fuller understanding of the story and I appreciate it too! Of course these things usually start better with a question or two rather than a settled conclusion that may not be fully informed. 😉
I dunno Wayne, sometimes they unearth more honesty when they are honestly misinformed. It depends on how its received far more than how its delivered. Anyway we’re just a couple of guys (and girls) talkin’.
Good podcast my friend. Thanks for getting up and going to work to do it, its good counter balance to all these other voices on my head 😉
I had similar thoughts Alan… its one thing to make this kind of shift later in life after having had ‘success’, taken care of family and put kids through school etc.
Its another thing to try to enter into this early on in life before having a lot of status or wealth.
I guess the benefit for paying the price early on is fewer years spent engaged in activities we later regret.
Add to that even if the lights go on later on in life, the reality is we may have led others down a path we later wish we hadn’t… but they may still be stuck.
Not saying all Mikes previous roles and tasks were wrong.
Just that some lessons are hard to learn without hindsight and experience. Hopefully godjourney and others can help save the rest of us a lot of time 🙂
In some ways Mike, your experience reminds me of the rich young ruler, the pearl of great price, seek first the kingdom, in order to save your life you must lose it, let the dead bury the dead, and a whole lot of other intimidating bible verses. It sounds as if you left your culture. Not just one but pretty much all of them. Church culture, Christian culture, business culture, and a few I can’t think of right now.
Eli, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it really matters if we are up to our ears in responsibility or debt, or rolling in money. Is it possible that a 35 year old father of 3 with a job, living paycheck to paycheck, could cut loose with all of the responsibility and just freely follow what he hears Jesus tells him? If not, then was Jesus just making all this up? Will seeking the kingdom of heaven first (not even really sure what that means) ensure that all of the human needs, we struggle so endlessly for, really be met?
Wayne, you have talked about doing pretty much the same thing Mike talked about except you have all sorts of responsibilities. Do you play fly fishing video games into the wee hours of the night err somethin’?
These are some ponderous thoughts you guys stuck in my head.
Nope, no fly fishing here. Volleyball or golf are my sports of choice. But in the early days, I did spend lots of time on long walks in the countryside sorting things out with Jesus. During that time I had vocational responsibilities, but took the time anyway. I am convinced that learning to think inside a relationship to Jesus, and learn to listen to him does not easily arise out of the clamor of our world. Finding some time to steal into a “prayer closet” of sorts is important. If we don’t find some space away from the noise of our TVs, iPods, etc., they will drown him out. As will our pursuit of mammon, or as some call it, “The American Dream”. That doesn’t have to make you financially irresponsible, but it will possibly mean you don’t have to kill yourself to have all the toys society says you have to have to be happy. Find a way into the quiet as part of your daily life if you want to relax into his reality. Listen to Kevin’s podcast again about Contentedness a few weeks ago. Some really similar stuff there…
Alan and Eli,
I have struggled with how to approach your comments so that you might hear my heart and not read the words only. In recent months I have asked many of the same questions in my own journey. Here are some of my thoughts about the things you have been discussing.
The longer we have to think on something and reason it in our minds, the further we tend to move away from the “still small voice” that prompted us into the conversation in the first place. What starts out as a desire to get close to Jesus scares us because of all the questions it raises about the way we have lived our life, our perceived responsibilities and obligations, and the way we have been taught to live based on cultural/ religious and familial input and issues.
For me the challenge was to set all that aside (great observation Alan) and ask what was the main thing I wanted out of life and what got in the way of me staying focused on the main thing. I realized that for me, the main thing became “knowing” Jesus. I also realized that to “know” him would probably require moving outside of the cultural understanding of how to live life. My culture did not even exist in the time that Christ was on earth. There is so much to insert here about 40 plus years of life journey but that’s for another day. The easiest way to share it is for me to share some of the questions that kept going through my mind.
What is love?
Can Love be known?
Am I loved?
Do I love well?
Do I know the source of Love? out
Is Jesus Love?
If I know Him will I know love?
These questions are not often asked in our culture and I believe we have settled for a facsimile of real love because of it. Most people told me that truly knowing Him was impossible and I understand their point; however, you can’t begin to really know someone until you pursue them. So I did and I am and I continue to pursue.
Very few of us men would deny that when we saw “her”, the girl of our dreams, we did not try and do anything and everything to catch her attention and get to spend time with her. Yet, we believe that knowing Jesus is something that doesn’t require the same pursuit. While there are many factors that influence this in our busy lives, the main ones seem to me to be the influence of culture, religion and family. Our beliefs arise out of these and expectations appear that may not always be in line with how God created us to “be”.
Everybody’s journey is different. It is easy to want to look for a pattern so others can be helped to “find their way” and not have to go through what everyone must go through. Without the difficulties we wouldn’t posture ourselves to listen to Jesus or seek His voice and leading. We would continue to live out of our “heads” and not into our hearts. Our mind would focus on the things of earth and miss many of the things in heaven. Our childlike wonder would dissipate under the weight of the responsibilities of our culture/religion/family. We would forget that our joy is to be with Jesus and that He is big enough to take care of us and our family. We would forget that true life and joy is found in Him. We would probably assume that if we don’t build it, others might not be able to feed their families. So we are held captive and brings others into the captivity that we ourselves are trapped in. It’s not just ministry that can entrap, cultural expectations, business expectations and family expectations trap people into doing things all the time.
As a people, we have quit questioning what is really in our best interest. In some cases we just assume the cultural norm and enter in to “survive”. As we become good at it, we justify what we have done with slogans like, “where God guides, He provides”. God may have guided us there or it may have been expectations placed on us. We, often times, never really asked the question of what really guided us to that point. And the more money we make, the more we can believe that God is behind it and we are on the right track.
Now the good news is that God does “work all things for good” but it is possible that we are taking the long route to what we desire. For me, I turned around a few years ago to sense the Father weeping and telling me that I did not really know Him. So in my case, it seemed that culturally I was making a way and being a responsible member of society, but the whole thing was dulling my receptivity to God.
Could I have just pulled away on weekends and connected, maybe. I think God knew exactly what I needed to do and compelled me to the desire of my heart, “knowing Him”. Once you pray the prayer, “Whatever it takes, Lord….”, hold on, it’s a wild ride!
There is much more to consider as there are so many issues intertwined in both of your comments. This is where it gets dicey because each person’s circumstance will require them to make hard choices about their perception of what it means to hear God and follow His leading. Beliefs about culture, country, religion and family will all be challenged. Questions you didn’t know existed or at least never slowed down enough to ask will come to the fore. At times, you will find yourself dazed and confused, feeling like you have been sucker punched. But it will lead you to question thoughtfully what and why you have believed what you believe.
I have found that my deepest desire is to posture myself to listen to His leading in the moment and that that will become the way of life I choose. My sense is that the normative life is one that is found living in the unknown, knowing that He will “take me where I want to go”. Since I don’t even really know where I want to go, I will need to rely on Him and follow His lead. It can be scary at times but as my trust grows as I see Him go before me. I have found great comfort in some of the stories of Joseph, Daniel, David, Jonathan, and others. Maybe one of the main reasons those stories were written was to show us the ups and downs of frail people as they pursue a relationship with their creator? Maybe our focus on their temporal successful outcomes has clouded the real message these life stories were meant to convey. Only Jesus can reveal to each one of us His love and His life direction for us on this journey.
My hope in sharing with you is not to suggest you have to take my journey to find what Christ is saying to you. It is simply to share what my journey has been to this point in the hope that something might assist others in finding intimacy with Christ.
Before I sent this off, I shared with my daughter and she reminded me that by my taking the journey before her, she has been released from many of the expectations of culture and religion. My hope has been that, while she must take her own journey, release from false expectations might allow her to move more freely into a relational journey of listening to Jesus. Still she must choose to enter into the relationship and choose to desire to be with Him. It also has freed her from some of the cultural expectations such as the type of house or car you may own or the neighborhood you might live in.
It is my observation that life with Jesus will require you to identify whatever competes for your deepest desire and releasing it to Him. If you truly believe that He has your best interest at heart, trading your deepest desires for His deepest desires for you will become a key factor in living in and through Him.
Thanks for your thoughtful insights and conversation.
Trust is not a choice, it is the fruit of your growing confidence in Father’s love for you.
@Kiel and Mike
Thanks for sharing. This is the first time I’ve been brave enough to post here! I wanted to comment on the ‘blabbermouth/thoughtful silence’ conversation. My nature makes me search for balance and the thought that came to me is that since we’re created in God’s image, and since humans have so many different personalities, why not embrace the variety of ways He can speak to us? I’m a bit of a ‘chatty Cathy’ myself at times, but I can also be deeply contemplative and quiet. I’ve learned to be happy with myself in whatever state. I’ve home schooled my eight kids, worked in mission schools, and done a lot of ‘evangelizing’ in years past. (I’m now self-employed with a small family business.)
Having the ‘gift of gab’, balanced with being a good listener, has been an asset on my journey.
I also do a lot of writing (songs, poems, essays, journals, etc) Sometimes I can work quietly and slowly on a project over a period of days, weeks or months. (I once wrote a song just by receiving a few lines a day as I watched over my kids in the swimming pool.) At other times I’ve had to stop what I was doing to grab a pen and paper to write down a song, poem, or reflection that the Holy Spirit was sending to me. It felt as though if I didn’t catch it quick it was going to slip away and be gone! (I once ‘caught’ a 34 stanza poem that needed almost no editing when the ‘chatty’ Spirit decided to give it!) I don’t know if this makes sense. I agree with both of you, and He’s so much more!
(PS: I hope this doesn’t sound like it’s about me and my talents or skills. I found ‘The God Journey’ through the referral of a friend a few years ago when I was at a very low point in my life. Being self-employed has made it possible for me to listen to all of the podcast archives as I do my job. Wayne and Brad, I sincerely thank you for the part you’ve played in helping me when I was way off balance!)
Your response to Alan and Eli was very encouraging to me as well.
I love what you said! It’s true, and I think some people were getting too hung up on the “blabbermouth” as a word, rather than what was truly meant by the phrase. Knowing my dad’s heart, and in my understanding of what his heart was trying to convey, it just means that God is always available and wanting to talk with us, be with us, show us things. He’s open and just waiting for us to come to him. He can’t wait to share with us. He is not hard to hear, in whatever way we “hear” best, as long as we are listening.
I have personally never felt “spoken” to in words, because God always seems to talk to me through pictures and songs. That’s how I receive best from him. It’s encouraging to me to hear that someone else understood what was meant and receives in a way I can relate to as well. Thank you so much for posting!
The freshness of your journey is inspiring. Thank you for sharing. It’s especially refreshing to read between the lines of what you and your daughter wrote. Those in between lines look like a healthy God centered family who support each other in their desire to more fully know Father. That verse “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” comes to mind here because it looks like Father is strengthening you through the mutual love and support of your family. It’s very evident that your family loves and respects you. What a cool journey!
Thanks for your long and thoughtful reply Mike. Yours is a context in which I have not thought it through myself. If disconnecting from cultural responsibilities is the path you will take, I am probably a lot more envious than suspect of your choice to do so. Mine on the other hand has been a longer, more protracted process. I have spent at least one decade living hand to mouth, raising a family and bolting everything together in my own life from broken cars I had to buy with money I had not yet earned, to broken hearts of family members who I was commissioned to lead through life but frequently was not able to buy for them what other children had. The axiom I have derived from this is “I look forward and I can’t see how anything will work out, I look backward and I can’t see anything that didn’t” It didn’t always work out how I wanted nor was it devoid of some degree of pain and suffering but it did work out.
Staying _in_ my culture of work and family was the plow that I have pulled through my journey. It was perhaps because I lived, several times, and frequently still do, frighteningly near the edge of losing what I love in both of those cultures, that I was driven to despair on many occasions. It seemed and frequently still does, too difficult to maintain the responsibilities that these cultures demand of me. In one of my deepest moments of despair I proposed to God that it would probably be easier and I would probably be happier abandoning my hold on all of those things (my wife, children, home, health, happiness) I was so desperately working to keep on the table, sweeping them off and keeping only those things he put back on it.
This was a proposal that I have seen worked out _within_ the parameters of my culture rather than without it. It was, for example, in the middle of agonizing to breathe life into a company that was not providing but rather bleeding me of money, that I found that my desire for money had entirely reversed and had I been walking down the street and seen the piercing eyes of William McKinley staring up at me in a misplaced $500 bill laying on the sidewalk, I would have gladly stepped over it, leaving it for the next pedestrian. It wasn’t because I had made my fortune that I had lost my interest in it, it was because I had lost it.
My moments in “Voltaire’s El Dorado” have come in fragments, more on the order of punctuation marks in the story of my life than entire chapters of it. When my responsibilities entirely overwhelm me or I have managed to wipe the cold sweat of a worrisome and sleep deprived night from my face, I sometimes find a moment of peace that goes far beyond human reasoning to sustain me in the same way you describe your experience to be. It is awaking from the conscious, daily nightmare that my job frequently becomes, for a few minutes of quiet solitude, clearing my thoughts and letting the presence of God assure my heart and soul (if I can speak so ethereally) before I lodge myself once again into the damp fog of the sometimes rather strange culture, of the people that I serve in my business, that gives me just enough reminder that there is light and life beyond that fog.
On the other hand, it is a joy to hear your findings as a Rhodes Scholar of the kingdom of God and I appreciate that you are willing to report back your observations, questions and encouragements. While I don’t suppose there is any setting on earth that is not just right for the honest questions you are looking into, I have to admit, the notion of living loved by God is in reality for me, more like living on the moon. I can nearly only imagine it, sometimes, for a few moments, feeling the lightness of one sixth the gravity of my life. But I do have those moments and they offer some assurance that the burden of this life is not an inevitable one, nor it is an enduring one.
I am stirred deeply by all of the commentary here. I have commented quite a few times on podcasts, always wanting to be absolutely honest with myself and others. I have been pretty open regarding my fear of never knowing God, horribly, because maybe I don’t want to. When I see the lengths that Mike went to in order to seek Him, in order to silence the noise, I honestly feel a little ticked that it would take that kind of paradigm shift. Why does knowing God have to be the hardest thing in life? He is God, I am not. If it is up to me then I am doomed. I don’t know if I can even sit in a quiet room and wait for one moment to hear Him. After saying that I know that I clearly don’t get Who He really is. Why does He show up at the foot of the bed in a Muslims home to awaken them and reveal Himself, yet Mike has to dump it all. Not that I have anything, I can’t even pay the bills. The point is, why is the God that lives in me so elusive? I know I’m a rotten sinner with a proclivity for escapism, fear and anger. I know that no one can tell me what to do. I just want to know that He cares enough to show up at the foot of my bed and help me see. After 6 years out of IC I still don’t seem to get it. Don’t know how to pray, don’t know how to be a good friend, parent or wife. I need help- clearly.
Thanks for the podcast- I keep coming back. Despite my obvious issues, I do derive hope that it will turn around, that I will turn around. My only prayer for the last 6 years has been that God would give me eyes to see Him and ears to hear, and a heart to obey.
Hi Nancy Jo
It sounds like you are in a lot of pain. I’m so sorry you hurt so much. I can’t tell you it will get better, because I’m not there myself.
I am 18yrs old and I don’t feel loved or wanted or care about, it feels like I’m holding onto dear life, clinging to Papa (God) like a insecure toddler, I hope someday it will become real to me, that Papa is the one holding me and I don’t need to hold so tight, and just relax. I feel alone and so filled with fear and lots of pain.
I’m probably not being very helpful, I don’t have any wisdom to pass on. I just wanted to let you know you are not the only one.
Nancy Jo – As for me, I have abandoned the question about why is God so elusive, not because it didn’t have an answer or because I couldn’t find it. I abandoned it because the question is a plant, it’s a diversion. In a yearning desire to see God, believers may try to make God too real, too real in fact to see at all. In an equally honest yearning frustration at not seeing God, Atheists may try to make God so transparent that you can look right through him and see nothing.
If anything, it is we who are elusive, like butterflies, one moment alighting delicately on the unswayable substance of God then flapping our wings at the slightest distraction and being carried away by pushing against the substantial air that is God.
Why can’t God simply be what we saw in Jesus – loving affection, clarity of thought, certainty of conviction, healing, hearing, encouraging, forgiving. If we have seen Jesus, and the most common source that we can see of him in is in what we read of him in the bible, then I should think that every time we see these attributes, we see God. I should think that every time we feel these attributes we feel God. I should think we know God is right here because everything works. We over leap a thousand working things to hold up the one that appears to be broken. He touches us through all of our senses while we wither in despair at his apparent absence.
I can’t help but think that if God were to suddenly gift mankind with the ability to fly, as a sure sign of encouragement that he is here for us, it would not be long before we drew into our lungs his miraculous air, only to mold it’s exhaled remains into the same doubtful questions, as it returns from providing us just a few seconds more of consciousness with which to observe and feel all that he has done around us, in us and for us.
Maybe you are looking for something less of God than even he could stoop to be.
Thanks for your graceful responses to all the questions and comments. You’re an A-Train gentleman.
As far as the “blabbermouth” conversation goes, I’m on board and now better understand what you’re saying.
I’ve had times where I was kicking myself for not hearing God when I thought I really needed to. I was under the impression that God was constantly spewing out life-saving data and I needed only to position myself near the blowhole. I see now, that Christ was not like this, therefore the Father isn’t either (and their good pal HS too). Christ was mostly relaxed, and gave out his life-giving information when the time was appropriate—and this meant that the receivers were ready to hear it! I think God wants us to get comfortable being in a long, relaxed conversation with him. He’s doing the mysterious work of reconfiguring our hearts and minds, and knows when we’re cooked enough to receive the next set of ingredients.
I think we’re on the same page. I just like to talk.
Thanks Mike for replying.
Something i love about stories in bible, one soon realizes no one then had it easy… in fact the more they knew and experienced of god the harder things often were for them.
Persecution, misunderstanding, rejection, even material lack is all part of the god journey as best i can tell. It often feels like trying to swim upstream, not just in relation to the world, but also in relation to the ‘christian’ world.
So yeah I have to agree that a lot of my inner frustration or difficulty at times is because i’m double minded, i want to be surrendered, but i also want some things on my terms… and regularly i see the temptation to reframe the journey in terms that suit my disposition and values.
Anyways thanks for encouragement to live loved.
@Hannah- I want to apologize, not for being honest with my feelings, but for giving my feelings more weight than they merit. I would read the response from Alan Gray again and again. It is true that I – we, tend to do exactly what Alan said- “we over leap a thousand working things to hold up the one that appears to be broken.” I would take this moment to confess that I have indulged my own immaturity to the point that it is rediculous. It is all about perspective and again as Alan so eloquently said- “Why can’t God be what we simply saw in Jesus- loving afftection, clarity of thought, certainty of conviction, healing, hearing, encouraging, forgiving. If we have seen Jesus (and, we, you and I have seen Jesus Hannah) and the most common source of what we can see of him is in what we read of him in the bible, then I should think that every time we see these attributes, we see God.” Thank you for your response Hannah and for your good heart. Much love to you sister.
@ Alan- thank you for your response. I reallized after listening to and responding to the podcast that I am not really believing in my heart what I said. I have been indulging a petulant and demanding attitude for a long time. The feelings expressed often feel very real, yet I don’t really buy the despair of it. I feel strongly that your words were right on target. Indeed, I have tried to make God too real to see at all. I cannot get around the truth of what I am seeing in this moment-beautiful clarity of thought- God. This to me, you and Hannah, everyone else- this has been body-life. Seriously…. thank you.
Great podcast!! This is exciting and it is wonderful how our Father works his magic in each of our lives. Each of us has our own journey and story…but all headed in the same direction. I hope you guys can come together again in the future for a further conversations!
Nancy Jo, I wouldn’t be to hasty to apologize for your words. The freedom we have in Christ is the freedom to take endless runs at getting life right. It is inevitable and entirely unavoidable that feelings will shrink and swell. Having been the parent of three children and grandparent of 4, I am convinced that God is as warmed by our emotional ups and downs as well as our outbursts as I am (now) by those of my own children and grandchildren. I continue to be confounded by the fact that as children, we can only feel a small fraction of the unconditional love that our parents (regardless of the age or behavior of either) feel for us, their children. The fact does however, provide a small window we can peek into to see, how our Father feels about us and why it is so difficult for us to believe it .
The fact is, you put very true words to feelings that many people have either never articulated or perhaps never had the courage to express publicly. I think that Hannah’s response is of more weight than mine because it is a genuine affirmation of what it is to be human. A true perspective is important but it can never simply be overlaid on an unexpressed raw human emotion and be expected to fix the problem by it’s application. The two _have_ to go hand in hand. I thinking that the emotional discord is the key that unlocks the revelation of the truth of the matter and then it is the truth that releases us from the emotional discord.
So – apology gracefully not accepted 🙂 To apologize for being so honest about your transient emotion is to apologize for being human and to the best of my understanding God is only in the middle of sorting out that mess. Meanwhile, it is healing to hear the heartfelt cry of another human. If you hadn’t expressed yourself so well, none of those thoughts would have ever occurred to me and I wouldn’t have written them and gained at least as much in writing them as you apparently did in reading them. I identified more with your emotion than with the truth of the matter that I labored to express.
I’ve intended to drop by and comment since I first heard this podcast. This is probably my favorite episode of The God Journey so far. Mike, thank you. We share a heart. I’d love to spend some time on a river with you soon. Lemme know if you ever head to SC. There is some of the best flyfishing in the world within a 2 or 3 hour drive of where we live. Wayne, I’m sure you know how much this meant to me. So much of what Mike said resonated with my own experience. The woods have become for me a sanctuary. My Abba, Creator and Guide meets me there. Thanks again.
All Who Wander. The podcast for sojourners discontent with asphalt highways, steepled cages, tidy answers and ordinary lives. Sometimes the path you’re on leads you beyond the church walls and into the wilderness.
Mike, what you shared in this conversation has really encouraged me. I got my ‘pastor’ degree several years ago and had full intentions to charge in and take the stage when the Father got my attention and took me by the road much MUCH less traveled by. I realized God wanted his own life to exist not in a building but as a reality inside of me. I have spent the last 3 years discovering some of what that means..this life is so deep and at times incommunicatable as there are many feelings and insights I dont have words for.
I thank God for this journey he is taking me on! Recently though I have hit some thick darkness. As God pealed back a layer deeper- letting me see the motivation for each action for 2 weeks, I saw how judgmental, prideful, selfish a part of me really is..maybe the deepest part. Having said that and gone through the discouragement of it, the honesty I feel and seeing the dark cave of my heart finally lit (walking in the light, yeah baby!!) is refreshing!! This untangeling is beautiful but painful.
Mike, your journey has made sense to me because several weeks ago, I woke up knowing with the absolute sense my time in school (getting a degree in computer networking now) was done..not me reasoning and then coming to a decision but waking to the sense that its time to go. I realized Im constantly trying to make something of my life. Im constantly working toward power, a title, money, and I am excited about fame and the approval of others. Id love it if they no longer run my life but they are the weeds in my garden being raised w the seed of the kingdom.
Needless to say few understood my choice..I was near top of the class, attendance was good, had the perfect schedule of school in the morning and work in the evening, I seemed happy, ect. Backing out of something that seems so normal is hard..and few assume your ever doing it for a good reason. The girl I had set my heart on to marry (after 4 years of dating) has completely pushed me away and wants nothing to do me me and my “bullsh!t”. In the end there is much pain, raw feeling, but joy of freedom. Free to live a simple life..free to persue God from obscurity as a landscaper (heck yeah brad!!) and as a mail room worker. Its all in His hands where this relationship goes next. Living in the day with Him is fun and I keep wondering how he is going to untangle my mess. Matt 5-6 has taken on a whole new reality in this relationship.
Thanks Mike for having the courage to simply follow Christ, thank you to your wife and family that supports you..it gives me great hope that one day God may lead me into a family that we can support each other following God even when we dont understand why! Thank you!