Willow Creek has Done it Again

28 12 2010

I left work at the counseling center early to be there, and as the lights dimmed, the music began, and images of Mary and Joseph flashed on the screen, I was glad I did.  The drama unfolded and I was transported into a dark world of anxiety, worry, pain, and fear that matched where I was emotionally at the time.

I felt something in my gut, I was being stirred, and I could tell a storm was brewing.  Tears were a few moments away, and through shortened breaths I sat back and held on tight for the onslaught of emotion.  Mary and the Angel were acting out Luke chapter 1 and fighting back and forth through disbelief, fear, anxiety, worry, and anger.  Mary finally reaches a place of acceptance and submission and saying, “I am the lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

The theme of the Christmas service at Willow Creek Church this year was Do Not Be Afraid -Yeah Right!

Given where I am right now, how could I not be afraid!  I am in a place of taking a huge step of faith and doing things I would not normally do on the belief that I am being prompted by God to do them, and in addition I am supposed to be fearless about it?!?

Through my reactivity, I found myself drawn more and more to Mary, feeling a deep sense of connection with her fear, anxiety, disbelief, and obedience to all that was happening around her. I came to appreciate in a new way the divine orchestration involved in the story of Jesus’ birth:

  • The Wiseman hearing the call and showing up, rallying around Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus showing their respect, admiration, and support.
  • The Angel of the Lord guiding and directing the people to be in the right places at the right time.
  • The raw courage and strength of Mary and Joseph to believe the impossible and act out of obedience and faith rather than out of their own will.

Through my tears I was asking:

  • Would do that in my life?
  • I am that important to God?
  • In what ways is he doing this already?
  • What is going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to choose trust over fear?

After asking those questions and fully feeling my fear, anxiety and worry, a strange thing happened, I felt:

  • Relief– as the angel suggested; I could chose to not be afraid.
  • Joy– being reminded of the complexity of how God works, and how it’s not for me to understand what’s going on, rather for me to be obedient and simply do what I am being asked to do.
  • Peace– I was connected to the story and myself in ways that I had not yet experienced.

Their fear mirrored my own, their experience of being asked to believe and do the unthinkable mirrored my own, and their obedience in the face of great odds mirrored my own.  I was comforted because just as they were ok in the story, so was I.  I had the overwhelming sense that no matter what happens in my life that I have been given or will be given the tools, the resources, and the support around me to grow, thrive, and flourish under any circumstances.  I was fully alive in my fear and knew that the next step in my personal growth is to give and receive love more freely; I felt loved by God after that experience.

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The More the Merrier!

21 12 2010

In my Small Group Bible study through Park Community Church in Chicago, I have been reading through Ecclesiastes.  For me that is a challenge.  I don’t always see, hear, or experience the Bible as a life-giving document that inspires me to live a more Christ-like life.  More often I see the Bible as I did growing up- a tool for punishment.  I’ve been reticent to dig into it deeply and yet am starving for the knowledge, wisdom, insight, and healing that it can provide.  I have suspended my fears and just read it.  I’m glad I have, among the many great things I’m learning, the most poignant so far has come from Ecclesiastes 4:8-12.

8 There was a man all-alone; he had neither son nor brother. 
There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. 
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” 
This too is meaningless— a miserable business! 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. 
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone? 
12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. 
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I read the first part and had an, oh crap he’s talking about me moment.  I immediately identified with the man standing alone- working constantly, rarely content and actually depriving himself of enjoyment!  I’ve been living under the mistaken belief that in order for life to have meaning it must be a struggle- not true, well, not entirely true.  Life is hard work and it is hard work that is best taken on in community, with support and not something to be done alone.

As a therapist I have the privilege to be a professional relationship builder, and yet these relationships alone are not enough to keep me filled, supported, and thriving.  I find an immense amount of satisfaction and joy from my work and though people whom I support surround me, I live my life more like the man in the passage.  I am learning to reach out more often for the same level of support in my own life that I offer others on a daily basis.  As the words in the passage suggest, when I am supported and backed up by another my efforts go farther.  I work harder, have someone to help me up when I fall, and I stay warmer- full of life, energy and vitality.

Through my employment at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment I have experienced the value of community and groups.  On faith I have done the unthinkable, and risked pain, rejection, and hurt by getting involved in my own personal growth work receiving group and individual support.  I am allowing myself to trust more than I have in the past and I am seeing the positive effects permeate my life.  I am less concerned with personal failure and utter destruction.  I have instead created for myself, through intention and support, the network of support I need to be constantly growing, learning, and playing in this world.

 





Un-Mute

25 10 2010

Un-Mute

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

My 4th grade music teacher, Ms. Deal, taught me an important lesson on the importance of sound in creating understanding.  She showed us the same scene from ET two different ways- with and without sound.  Without the sound, the intricacies of dialogue, inflection, and tone were lost, and without music setting the mood, I quickly lost interest.  As unsatisfied as I was initially, the second time, with the sound was breathtakingly suspenseful.  Each new sound was introduced and blended with the rest, creating a tense yet memorable experience.  What I came to realize was that as frustrating as it was to watch that section on mute, I often interact with the world in the same muted way.

Think for a moment about how muting keeps a speaker from transmitting sound.  Speakers rely on electric impulse to create vibrations that are amplified to fill a room with life-giving sound.  Sound is constantly being generated in the form of electrical impulses, yet muting diverts that current to an internal loop.  Un-muting sends that potential energy coursing through the wires to be amplified and expressed.

When I am emotionally muted, my face, like a screen, plays a movie lacking the soundtrack my voice provides.  As I continue my personal growth work and gain access to my internal director, I am learning how to un-mute my emotions more effectively.  The more deeply I connect with myself and express my internal drama out loud, the more my body pulses with energy and aliveness.  Each time I turn my emotional volume up a notch my soundtrack and screen begin to match, and my internal director celebrates.  Being in sync allows for more understanding and connection to occur with God, others, and myself.

My internal director is designed to make impactful movies; ones that people want to pay attention to and connect with. A great movie begins with meaningful dialogue and clear sound.  As I pay closer attention to how well my internal sound matches my external being I will be transforming my life from a boring movie on mute to an Academy Award winning film.

So, check your volume, are you muted?  Let’s emotionally un-mute and begin living in the surround sound of our lives, telling the world that we are a movie worth seeing!

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Andrew Mercer is a committed Christian as well as a licensed therapist practicing out of Northbrook, Illinois at the Center for Christian Life Enrichment. He has a passion for helping clients live in the full abundance that God intended. He regards honesty and truth as valuable principles in forming close relationships, and has a heart for the Northshore community and twenty-somethings. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew running, reading, and enjoying a healthy lifestyle.