As usual, the verse that I am stuck on is not especially meaningful to commentary writers. To them it spells out…be moderate. To me it tells a story of my experience. Ecclesiastes 7:18, sums up a lot of difficulties that I have had in my religious experience. “It is good that you should take hold of the one, without letting go of the other; for the one who fears God shall succeed with both.” I have tended to lack moderation in my religious views. I only now, in the past several years, have entrusted the content of my faith to God’s word, His Spirit, my community of believers (most of them), and some outside influences.
When I was 17, I left for college. I was raised a Southern Baptist, and I had a very weak foundation. I had lots of rules, but very little reasoning. So when I went to college, I took hold of lot of new information and philosophies and let go of my religious upbringing. I found that in this new circle of influence my ideas did not hold up to any logic that I could find. Not only that, but the ideas of the world beyond high school were more sophisticated…and…they let me do whatever I wanted without consequence. The only consequence that I was really aware of from my childhood was shame. The Spirit, or Holy Ghost, was peripheral at best in my experience. So, I was lacking the spiritual tools and the wisdom to hold on to both.
When I desired to reestablish myself in the church, I was drawn to a “life theology”. I got to live my life and call myself a Christian. I then chose to take hold of this effortless lifestyle choice and adopt a new social interest…the church. I understand that God moves you in baby steps, as He proved by enduring my lackadaisical presence. Salvation does indeed require “working out”. So, I was on spiritual milk for eons as a social Christian. It was…like Christianity light. Fun, but I eventually was starving to death.
Next, I went to seminary. Here is where I took hold of spiritual academia and let go of Christianity light. I realized that I was much too silly to understand anything significant and I had to increase my knowledge in order to know God…my reasoning was vanity. I have to credit this move for pushing me to a new dialogue in Christianity. It introduced me to the lives of historically saintly people and the acknowledgment of my inadequacy. It served my ego well…and then I thought that I was really smart, so it served me poorly, also. Seminary was the most significant spiritual stepping stone that I have hopped on, however.
Next, I had my back breakdown and surgery. That is when the magic started happening. I took hold of the Spirit as it groaned on my behalf and demonstrated God’s power. I let go of head spirituality. It is funny that lying on my back in pain, questioning the rest of my life is when God chose to show up in a way that would change the way that I understood Him, forever. He joined my head and my heart during that experience. It was the most significant season of my life, ever. Now I take hold of Him every day, without letting go of any of Him. I fear God now. Saying this does not scare me, it is my covering.
This tells me that the key to spiritual growth is in the joining of spiritual knowledge. It is not in the disposal of experience when it proves less useful. We have to be willing to acknowledge our past and join it peacefully with the present. Even my times of complete abandonment are marked by the usefulness of my testimony. Our lives are collective. I am not four separate people, but one person who has experienced the grace of God, despite myself, through many different phases. Oh, how I pray that I am in a moderate zone. Lives are much easier to live when we are one person and not many.
Thank you, Lord, for your infinite kindness and endurance. You are steadfast through all of the phases of our lives. Join our lives and make us effective and moderate for your service.