Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wrestling With God

This weekend Tim and I were fortunate to attend a one-day conference in Chapel Hill, NC, with Dan Allender. A counselor, writer, and teacher, Allender is also presently the president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. We've read several of his books (To Be Told, How Children Raise Parents, The Intimate Mystery...) and are great fans of his writing and his teaching.

The conference was titled "Wrestling with God: Jacob's Story, Our Story," (read Jacob's story in Genesis 26-50) with the tagline, "What if you could lead and live in relationship with God and others in passionate, life-changing ways?"

As I look back over my notes from the day, a mere three sessions, I am amazed at how much Allender taught, the questions he raised, the truth he offered for consideration, the stories he told. At times, I felt as if I was clinging, just trying to stay with him, as his words were so thick with meaning I couldn't possibly absorb the impact and implications of them all in such a short period.

So much good stuff I'd love to share...about how God works through our weakness, intends to rouse our desire, and values relationship with us. But I want to share a bit of what Allender said about "Calling," as that is one idea that Tim and I have been pondering for a while now. As I write, though, I see that it all weaves together...calling, wrestling, desire, relationship.

Consider this: "What is your calling on this earth? All of us are meant to reveal God through our character. What does this mean? You have a role to play on this earth, and when you live out your character, you reveal the character of God."

Allender asks, "Do you spend time studying you and how God has made you? The repetitive themes that show up in your life? Have you been wrestled to the ground by your own story? If not, then you want to be a part of God's plan from a safe distance. If you want God, it is a bloody affair -- God mugs those he loves and provokes us to open our hearts to desire."

"Wrestling with God takes you to his blessing: He chooses to bring something beautiful in spite of you, for you, for others, and for Him. It is in our brokeness and weakness that we reveal God's strength and his glory. So the question is -- Will you participate with joy in being used by God?"

I left the day with so much to ponder, but this one overwhelming thought: the God of the universe, who pursued Jacob -- as flawed as he was -- and gave him a new name and a blessing, pursues us as well. He still pursues, he still speaks, and he wants to bless us and give us a new name. As Allender says, "Every story in the Bible is OUR story -- they don't just have an effect on us; they are OUR story. Our lives have crossroads written by God to invite us into a mugging -- God is trying to wake us up."

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