What a stunning story. I had no idea! And I am so sorry. Wow.
I don't know how to even respond. I've tried several times, and I just erase what I write and quit and start again later. Jay. Holy... wow... my goodness...
Okay. Okay. Okay.
You are coming into focus! This explains soooo much about many of the conversations we've had. I still remember one of our initial conversations out in the boat on the river in which you said you just don't really ever hear God speaking or feel like you know him personally or even can. You just seemed kinda dead to God. Well, no wonder. You were scarred. You opened up the package labeled "Gift from God," and it was a hand grenade with the pin pulled. BOOM!
But I've seen slow growth and recovery in your life since that time. Going back to the initial horrible events sure is hard, eh?
I think we can know God's will. But I don't think we can know what the results of following his will in the short term will be. Longterm: blessings. Short term: maybe blessings, maybe hand grenades or land mines or nuclear bombs. One of my biggest annoyances is shallow Christians who say "Temporal blessings mean God loves you. Suffering means God has abandoned you." This isn't faith; it is following the path of least resistance. That has nothing to do with God. We can certainly follow the path of least resistance and I think we can even serve God along the way. Open doors, closed doors. Which ones are from God? Does he open the ones we're supposed to go through? Or does he instruct us to force open some of the closed ones he points out? Are we too weak and insecure to open locked doors that he wants us to open? Are we too stupid to not go through open, inviting doors that he hasn't pointed out? Sometimes I can discern what I think is the will of God for my life. But most of the time I only know what basic things he has called me to and I live out daily obedience to those instructions. Eugene Peterson has a really encouraging book called "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society." It's based on Psalms 120-134. Many of his chapters were difficult for me to read, because he often turns our expectation of God on its head. What our world expects of God is often flat-out wrong. He struggles with many difficult topics and he doesn't give easy band-aid answers. See if you can find the book in your library. That's where Elyn found the copy we have.
Sometimes, Jay, I think following God's will and knowing which of our "dreams" are from God means returning to the things we simply can't avoid. We have no peace until we do the things he's called us to. And we have peace when we do. Even if they come out horribly, we know we've done what God calls us to. It's not an easy thing to discern: I'm often motivated to do things that Elyn tells me we shouldn't do. How do I align my reading of God's with with her contradictory reading of God's will? How do I align my dreams and desires with her contradictory dreams and desires?
Recently I've come to this question: What are the things I CAN'T NOT do? (I know it's a double negative... but the positive doesn't quite mean the same thing: What do must I do? That was Francis Schaeffer's question: What then shall we do? I asked that a lot in college.) But it's not the same. What then shall we do doesn't always have an answer. When it does, the answers are often vague. But the question, what can't I NOT do? is more direct and to the heart. What are the things that I simply cannot escape, try as I might? Jonah. Jay. Run the other direction. Hide. Plug your ears. Avoid. But sooner or later... you can't escape his will for your life. What is it, Jay, that you haven't been able to avoid for the last 15 years? What is it that continues to tug at your heart, even though you say you've learned to live without desires? I know you well enough to know that you haven't really died to your desires or to your God... you've just placed them both in the deep freeze. And they're beginning to thaw. What will the results be? Pain. Just like when you come in from the cold and put your hands under the warm water. OUCH. Ouch. ouch.
So continue thawing out, my friend. Continue asking hard questions. Continue seeking God. Continue looking at your desires. See if the two align. See if you can ever have any peace without satisfying God's will. See if you can have any peace without fulfilling your God-given desires. I think you will find your life continues to come up empty until you rectify those two things. But what's the risk? Suffering. And life. You live; you suffer. You die; and well, you're dead. No pain. But no life. Sooo.... seek life. (You don't have to seek pain: that comes on its own, right?)
Interestingly enough, I think we've traveled parallel paths to the same place. You took a fall off a steep cliff. I've taken numerous stumbles down gentle slopes. You fell with your family, hit hard, lost your breath and almost your lives, and are just now recovering. I've stumbled with my family, and we've often blamed each other for being clumsy, but I don't think we've ever done irreparable damage. Just a few skinned knees, so to speak. Now you and I need to stand up, dust off, and get back on the path of God's will for our lives. And, providentially, that is our desire, isn't it? To get back on the path of God's will for our lives. Can we travel together?