As the only student on my recent learning journey who was not seeking ordination as a deacon or elder in the church, it caused me to go deeper and seek confirmation from God regarding my call. I do remain confirmed in the path that I am taking, or that God has put before me. The path I am on is a path that seeks to gain trust and connect with people both inside and outside the walls of the church by pursuing my Certification in Spiritual Formation. Even after this journey with others on the ordination path, I feel confirmed as laity. I feel called to help people seek and find peace in their life amidst the turmoil and distress of this life both inside of and outside of the walls of the church.
I am not called to be the church; I am called to the parts of the church. I am called to help people find their hearts strangely warmed as John Wesley did when his experience with God went from a head experience to a heart experience at Aldersgate. I am called to help us return to the roots of how this church was brought to America. The irony here is that John Wesley was escaping church as he knew it to start a different kind of church. He wanted to offer healing and wholeness to people through a personal relationship with God. We must look at our history and realize that today we are the agents of change. This means answering the call of connecting people to their relationship with God, not the church. This was never the intent. I am called to take it from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
Ironically, I think my story and experience with God has been opposite of that of John Wesley. I feel like I came to know God through my heart first and now God has called me to learn more about him with my head. You see, both are important. The way of salvation is to have God in our hearts. Knowing God in our heads will not give us the kind of relationship we can have with God in our hearts. I believe that knowing about God makes knowing God in your life even more meaningful. Everything that happens in your life is Spiritual Formation. Opening your eyes to see it as such is what makes all the difference. I hope I can walk alongside that path with others whose eyes are being opened so they can too feel their hearts “strangely warmed”. We must stop doing church and just be God’s church. This may look like new ways of being the hands and feet of Christ. It may look like self care, covenant groups, social justice, Sabbath time, missions, or worship.
As I was concluding these thoughts, the word “United” on the front of my hymnal jumped out at me in a new way. We are United. We are a United church. The United Methodist Church is just the means in which I have chosen to accept and live out my faith. It is not my identity because my identity is that of a child of God. This time of learning was a reminder of why I have chosen to answer God’s call on my life to walk with people on their spiritual journeys. It reminded me of the importance of community and of learning from our mistakes. It gives me passion to rejuvenate God’s people in historical and ancient ways. The connection is essential. I look to our Lord for the hope to share that peace, for he is the lover of my soul.
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide,
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call?
Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall--
Lo! on Thee I cast my care.
Reach me out Thy gracious hand!
While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand,
Dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name,
Source of all true righteousness;
Thou art evermore the same,
Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found,
Grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound;
Make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart;
Rise to all eternity.
“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”
Charles Wesley, 1740
Whitney R. Simpson
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