Seeking God in uncertain times
This week, I want to share with you about the roller coaster of this last few months and what I am hopeful for. I know that the future is uncertain; there is no narrative more pervasive than that right now in our world. We don’t know what things will look like in the coming months and that can be so discouraging, but I know that God is at work and although ministry will need to look different, God will give us the tools we need to continue as co-laborers in Christ.
As some of you know, the founder of Cup of Cool Water, Mark Terrell is a Spiritual Director. He is a certified Spiritual Director through a program called Soul Formation, which focuses on helping those who are receiving spiritual direction to see the movement of God in their everyday life through the guidance set in place by Ignatius of Loyola. I have been doing spiritual direction with Mark for just over two years now. The most common question he asks is, “How do you see God in that?” In my daily life before Covid-19, I would sit in our sessions and I would spend half of the session blurting out frustrations related to the non-stop nature of life and I would hardly ever feel like I had the presence of mind to slow down, to pay attention to the movements of God.
I had a Spiritual Direction session with Mark last week and we talked about Consolation and Desolation, two very prominent themes in Ignatius’ spiritual practices.
These terms are explained as follows:
“Consolation can hold many emotions and experiences. Consolation does not mean that I feel constantly happy or at peace. In fact, sometimes when I am doing precisely what God is leading me to do, I might feel negative pressure from others, or I might find the experience a challenge because I’m growing and learning. Yet if I sense in my spirit that I’m going the right way, this spiritual reality consoles me whether the day is bumpy or smooth.”
“A person dwells in a state of desolation when she or he is moving away from God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the growth of resentment, ingratitude, selfishness, doubt, fear, and so on. If my outlook becomes increasingly gloomy and self-obsessed, I am in a state of desolation. I am resisting God or, if not actively resisting, I am being led away from God by other influences.”
Since the restrictions have been in place, we had to scale way back in the way we serve the youth and it has truly felt like a loss. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we are all about relationship at Cup, in fact, Mark would often say that if we had nothing to offer, youth would still show up because they value the relationship they receive through Cup of Cool Water. I truly believe this. In this time that we have been unable to serve the youth in the way we have in the past, I have felt a tremendous amount of desolation.
Over the last 6 years, I have experienced the movement of God through Cup of Cool Water. I experienced consolation as we would pray before drop-in or for a youth after. As I would see volunteers show-up week after week, we were co-laborers with Christ, serving the youth. That one has hit me in a deeply personal way. I have been a Christian for two decades now, but I have experienced a unique blessing from seeing consistent service from the volunteers at Cup. I know that it I’m not the only one feeling this loss either, I know that our volunteers at Cup are feeling this loss as well. We show up week after week because we know that God is furiously in love with the youth we serve. We know that he is near to the broken hearted and we want to share that with the youth.
For better or worse, I experienced God most profoundly over this period in my life through the youth we serve. When a youth asks an antagonistic question about Christianity, or if we are simply having a conversation about their current struggles, I and many of us at Cup had to rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance in how to provide encouragement, compassion and empathy. As we would see God show-up, we would see God’s work and it would demonstrate His goodness, love and compassion. Seeing God through that lens has led me to seek consolation through relationships with the youth.
This brings us to this moment. As we are in this period of waiting, I am rethinking how I seek consolation in my life. How can I recognize God’s goodness, love and compassion now, without the catalyst of the drop-in center? What does Christian faith look like outside of our normal context? What does ministry look like in this new reality? I think as a Christian, these questions go hand in hand.
What I am beginning to learn is that I need to seek consolation in the quiet, in the still small voice of God. Things have been slow lately and my hope now is to, make space to listen to God so that I can truly be a servant leader at Cup of Cool Water. As the great Bill Robinson says in his book Incarnate Leadership, “Faith-based leadership, therefore is not as much about what we do as who we are.”
My hope in this coming season is that the whole team at Cup of Cool Water can slowly open back up ready to serve youth better than ever before. As we learn to listen to the voice of God, to preemptively seek out who God says we are in order to better see who God has created the youth we serve to be. It is truly tempting to allow desolation to set in, to see this as a complete loss, but I know that we are called to persevere.
The picture I have attached is of an outing at one of our volunteer’s home on Liberty Lake. I have included it because it is such a great memory and for me, it symbolizes hope. Linda Mahoney invited us out to her house and everything was going great until we got a tow rope for an inner tube caught in the intake for a jet ski. We ended up spending the better part of two hours cutting and untangling the rope. Linda was so gracious and even invited us back the following year. All the guys who were on that outing said they had a fantastic time. It is a reminder to me that even in the midst of chaos, which we often experience; we can experience God’s goodness and love.