The letters I get from people after being i in a meeting with them often blow me away. I shared one a few weeks ago after my visit to the midwest. Last week I got one from someone who was in our gathering in Orange County. I love when people share their stories and how a brief intersection with some others can have incredible impact on their own journey. These moments of encouragement, clarity, and opening doors into new space are why I travel when God asks me to, and their stories are often such a great encouragement to others. Here is the latest:
In February of this year, God heard my frustrated cry after an annual men’s retreat that started me down a road to freedom and fruitfulness. It all started when I went up for prayer to an elder at a closing worship service at the retreat, and I tearfully expressed to him that I was tired of the performing, sick of the failing, and that I felt incredibly guilty because after ten years of Bible studies and church service, I was no longer interested. He paused and I swear he almost chuckled., and said that I sounded exactly like a character in a book he was reading. (I came to find out later it was So You Don’t Want to Go To Church Anymore). He encouraged me by saying my heart was actually in a good place. He advised me to stop all of my performing and to be honest with God about my frustrations and to ask God to make Himself real to me.
Afterwards I did just that. Then within a few days I found and read through the online version of the book. In the last ten months I read the He Loves Me, and then read The Shack. All the while I listened to the podcasts at The God Journey during the day. God began a work immediately. Two particular areas of struggle that plagued me my entire life almost immediately taken out of the picture. It was not because of discipline but rather it was because for once I experienced His pure and true love. He was starting to impress on me that he was my biggest fan and that he was incredibly patient in my transformation. I began to wonder about different issues I had and He would calmly communicate to me that he would get to those things in time and for me to relax. He is so patient. Some of those issues He has subtlety started changing in me and some are totally on the back burner, and that is exciting! I am no longer trying to live beyond my transformation, but right in it!
Amazingly my wife is going through this as well. By her just being in proximity to me and seeing the guilt and shame being lifted from me, her desire for a deep and real relationship with God grew as well. At times I would be tempted to interject this or that, giving tips or advice, but God would whisper to me that I didn’t have to worry about it and that He was perfectly capable to do a work with me just living right next to her.
Conversations and opportunities to share what I was going through sprung up all around me, and my willingness to be open and honest with friends, family and even strangers came very easy and unforced. My life has changed and I feel it’s simply because my cry to Him was real, and because I was truly fed up. I am coming to trust that He will make Himself known and real for anyone who honestly asks. And that He will do it for each person in His own customized way. The amazing and freeing thing is that I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s journey; I just need to encourage and love them. Wow!
As I drove to your meeting I was listening to your very first podcast. You see in February I started listening to the podcasts while I worked, in reverse order while throwing in the current ones whenever the came out and it just so happened that on the day we met up I finished all of the media.
I didn’t know what to expect on Saturday, but I thought it would be a good time to at least thank you for your heart and honesty in the materials you had made available to people wanting to experience the true and living God. When the discussion started I was pretty turned off when people were referring to themselves as Wayne groupies, and Wayne stalkers, putting you on a pedestal I don’t think you enjoy. Also people were so focused on what to do or say to others in different situations and it seemed the focus of questions were shallow. I was going to take off at lunch but you happened to come up and invited me to lunch. In the afternoon I was so glad you shifted the focus onto the importance of an intimate and growing relationship with God. It’s funny how complicated we make things, because really a close relationship is all that really matters. All situational advice that people want can be found in Him and I am so glad you stressed that.
Watching you endure the Wayne groupie comments and steer people to what matters was important for me to see. Your willingness to break through the superficial fronts that people put up and challenge them to keep it simple is what I had hoped you would do.
Thank you for making your journey so public to encourage me on mine. Now that I’ve gone through a book or two, met you in person, and finished all 511 podcasts, I feel like I can take the training wheels off and venture out. Teaching and showing my eight year-old son and four year-old daughter how to engage God in real relationship is obviously priority number one. Our second priority is our community. We have not been to a Sunday gathering in ten months but I am finally unbelievably okay with the idea of maybe attending every once and a while to see if God wants us to help anyone that is tired or discouraged. Our hearts are now turned to serve and love the people that are right before us.
Also check out this amazing story about God transforming a neighborhood at FindingChurch.com.