Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Stumbling Over the Stumbling Stone: Thoughts on Falling and Failing

“God is both sanctuary and stumbling stone….” (Isaiah 8:14). 

For most of us whose faith has been formed by Western theology, there isn’t much mention of the benefits of falling and failing in the Christian life. Instead, there’s common thinking that if you’re walking with God, God will bless your path and that path will naturally lead you upward and onward.

Upward and onward hasn’t been our path of late. For almost eight months, David and I have tried to sell our home in order to purchase a property for Sustainable Faith Indy, an urban retreat center we hope to start. Along the way, we’ve really given ourselves to this dream and have had a strong measure of confidence that we were pursuing what is in God’s heart for us and in our heart for God.

Yet try as we may, our house hasn’t sold and we haven’t been able to secure a property that is suitable. In my last post, I wrote about the sense that we are “coming up against something,” but not sure what that something is. I read a chapter in Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward that gave that something a name: “Stumbling Stone.”

Isaiah referred to God as both a sanctuary and a stumbling stone. (Again, not much commentary on that name for God in Western theological writing.) Yet, it really gives expression to what I’m sensing/intuiting/feeling as we try to press forward—that God has plopped himself down in the middle of our path as a Stumbling Stone and made the way forward impassable.  

We don’t know why. We could try to guess. But it just isn’t clear to us at this juncture and for that matter, it may never be. But what I think God might be inviting us to do is fail: to throw in the towel, hit the pause button, regroup; to feel all the loss, grief, confusion and hope that we feel and to allow this falling and failing to be our teacher.

I take a risk in sharing these thoughts with you because I know you will want to cheer me up. I’m grateful that you do, but remember that it’s okay to be sad and feel depressed when you’ve been through something as hard and frustrating as we have. I also don’t really want to hear some little spiritual quips about how it will all work out. I know it will. I also know that things could be so much worse. No one is dead. No one has been maimed. We have much to be thankful for.

Right now, I just want to live with honesty and integrity in our disappointment and do so in the presence of God. We haven’t made any decisions for sure, but we are close to quitting for now. So—if you want to do anything, pray for us. Pray that we will be open-hearted and all ears and discern what we are to do. You could also ask God to love on us a bit. That would be good.

Let me end with a short excerpt from Rohr’s Falling Upward:

“Sooner or later, if you are on any classic ‘spiritual schedule,’ some event, person, death, idea or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it; or to state it in our language here, you will and you must ‘lose’ at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go the further and larger journey.” (Pg. 65, 66)

Wanting to go the farther and larger journey….

Thanks for your friendship—Beth  


Kim L. said...

You have put to words where I am...different set of circumstances of course, but definitely similar in that a vision/calling that I feel is from God is being held up by Him. I find it difficult to wait...I want to plow ahead, but that would put me ahead of God. I want to give up, but that would take me out of His sweet spot. I must wait for His time...His direction...His guidance. Waiting is not for the impatient...so He teaches me patience. Patience that allows me to depend on Him in all things, for all things - even for the coming of fruition of His vision/calling on my life. It's not about me - it's about Him. Even as the stumbling stone - HE is the center piece - He will receive all the glory, honor and praise!
Thanks for sharing your heart's journey...praying for you!

Beth said...

It's one of the toughest places I've been in a while, Kim. I'm not a good waiter--especially when my heart is so full of desire it feels as though it will burst. Praying for you in your "expectancy."

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