the battle between faith and sight

so basically, i'm just going to come right out and tell you that kirk and i believe God is moving us to california. to orange county. in august. to enroll in the spiritual formation and soul care program at isf. to be trained to offer what God created us to offer. to bring that to those embarking into deep soul journeys there. to join with those already at work in these fields of harvest there, and perhaps, just perhaps, to create something new, with them, together.

on that thursday when so much crazy conversation happened with tammy in her comment space, when my heart had been uncovered so that only the bald truth of it remained, when i was shaken into seeing how God can blow the roof off expectations and create new rooms of possibility, kirk was having his own kind of day with God. i won't share the details here because it is his own story to have and to hold, but it is enough to relay that it was soul-shaking and penetrating in its own right for him, too.

that night, as we were preparing for bed, i looked over at kirk and said, "what if God is going to move us back to california to take the isf program?" this is something that has been on our radar screen for a couple years and which we've looked into more deeply a couple different times, always feeling the time just has never been quite right, quite yet, even though it has always been near and dear to our hearts. but maybe, just maybe, with all that has been ripening inside of us now, the time for isf had now, also, become ripe.

and then, on a bit of a whim, i said, "and what if afterward, he wants to do something crazy, like have us purchase a house that can be used for spiritual direction for people?" then i steamrolled this crazy notion forward even more and said, "we could use each room in the house as an office space for each spiritual director who works there, and people can make appointments to come sit with them and process through their journey and what God is trying to work out in them. and i could work there, and maybe sarah could work there, and maybe my other friend sara could work there, and maybe even you could, too!"

it was a crazy idea.

but it started to grip me. i could see the house. it kinda looked like this on the outside. and in my mind, i could see an open room directly inside the front door that could be used as a reception space. with three or four rooms going off to the side and down the hallway that could be used as offices for the spiritual directors. with a kitchen and dining room gathering space in the middle. and with an upstairs that, just perhaps, could be used for administration.

and then i made the connection back to all tammy had said earlier that very same day about non-profits. and how i had felt so resistant to that idea when i first considered it, but how energizing it now felt to imagine running a place like this, where i could cast and uphold the vision but also be working one-on-one with individual people in their unique spiritual journeys each and every day, too.

so then i kind of freaked out. something that had been an off-the-cuff, just-stumbled-into-my-brain idea had already, in the span of just a few minutes, crystallized into an entire plan for a house plopped down into orange county, california, complete with a detailed exterior and interior, with all kinds of rooms and spaces and all variety of achingly beautiful, imaginative, soulful, caring, loving, deeply spiritual people moving around on the inside.

i didn't quite know what to do with all this, so i did the only obvious thing i knew how to do. i prayed. "lord, you know all that is transpiring here, and all that has been transpiring, within both of our hearts and in all these conversations happening all over the place. i don't know what to do with what you've made my heart to offer. but here we are with these thoughts of california and isf again, and now this crazy idea about a house. is it possible for you to . . . confirm . . . any of this?"

i know sometimes God just doesn't work that way. sometimes God doesn't tell his people where he is taking them. he didn't tell abraham. he didn't tell moses. he just said go to a place i will show you. just keep walking in darkness, and i will get you there.

so i knew asking him to confirm these thoughts was kinda risky. and i told him i knew that. i told him he could do anything he wanted with us. he could choose to keep us in darkness until the last possible moment, when suddenly a stone would appear in the water for us to step on just before we would have landed ourselves in the deep to drown.

but i also knew that sometimes he does confirm. not always, but sometimes. so i asked it in a small voice. knowing he knows just how little i trust myself these days to have any idea about what is going on. knowing he knows that i'm full of second-guessing and discouragement at my own ability to discern his actual voice, instead of just my own. so, yes. in all that, this tiny-voiced prayer: "if you want to, God, would you . . . confirm . . . any of this?"


the next day, kirk sent me a link to a beautiful memoriam and poem written by david whyte in honor of the late john o'donohue, whose poem i had recently quoted here for my beautiful soul friend, kirsten. on the day kirk sent the link, there was an announcement at the bottom of the page about a poetry contest hosted by an organization called spiritual directors international. at first, i clicked on the advertisement because i was thinking about the beautiful poem kirsten had just shared with all of us, and i wanted to see if her poem would qualify to enter. unfortunately, it didn't, but pretty soon i was clicking around on their website and found a page discussing the question, "what is christian spiritual direction?"

just about every single explanation given on that page in response to this question resonated with a place so deep within me that i felt like my soul was swimming up from deep waters to make actual, living contact with my heart. the response was just that physical. i felt like every single part of my core being had found its true home.

that's general signpost number one.

later that day, i got an e-mail from terri. she had been following the conversation in tammy's comment thread on the previous day, and she wanted to share with me privately that she sees in me something of a care pastor or spiritual director. she was wondering, had i ever looked into any spiritual direction programs?

well, yes. in fact, i had. isf, to be exact. and funny you should mention . . .

that was general signpost number two.

it seemed pretty clear God was showing up and showing off to me that day. he was making his way through my prayer. he was affirming that this is indeed the path of my heart. he was putting a little arrow-pointer on the road saying, "keep going this way."

so i said okay. i will, God.

but i still went to bed that night with questions. what about that house idea . . . ? did God want to show up and show off for that, too? or would that be too much to ask, on top of everything he'd already just done?

so i decided to talk to him about it. "lord, you are God. you can do all that you want. i will keep walking in this direction, and you can use it however you want. but as far as this house idea goes . . . is it your idea, or just another one of those bizarre, newfangled ones kirk and i are prone to having from time to time? might you also want to . . . confirm . . . your thoughts on this thought, too?"

and then i went to sleep.

the next day, kirk and i decided to check out a catholic retreat center in town that we had just learned offers training in spiritual direction. (this was one of the discoveries i had made on that spiritual director website the day before.) even though it was saturday and we likely wouldn't be able to find anyone to talk to that day, we wanted to take another step. just to see what we might see.

the visit was brief. we walked around a bit, saw a thomas merton retreat going on, discovered a really cool tree, and then left. we had a feeling it wasn't the right place for us, but it felt good to take some kind of concrete step in the right direction.

but then, as we were driving around, we found ourselves in a pretty commercial area of town, crowded with big-box stores like target and bed, bath, and beyond and linens 'n things and borders. all the commercialism felt like it started to crowd close around, and i started to feel really, really funky as we were driving along. it kinda felt like all the air was being sucked out of the car and out of me. i started slumping down in my seat. when kirk asked what was wrong, i could barely communicate. basically, it felt like the energy of God was being displaced for the energy of his enemy.

needless to say, kirk turned the car toward home. as soon as we walked in the door, i went straight for the bedroom, laid face-down on the bed, covered my head with my arm, and began to cry. i started praying out loud to God by myself in the room, telling him that i didn't know what was wrong or why i was crying. i just kept saying that over and over. i didn't know what was wrong or why i was crying. but i couldn't stop crying, and i couldn't stop feeling like something was wrong.

kirk came in the room and started talking to me. it took him a moment to realize i was crying. but when he did, he came close and let me rest my head on his chest, and he asked if i could tell him what was wrong. i shook my head, tears still streaming. i really didn't know what was wrong.

"well, can you try to talk about it?" he asked.

and then a torrent of words i had no idea were inside me began pouring out of my mouth. what makes us think this house idea could ever happen? what makes us think we could try to buy a house in the middle of orange county, california, of all places, one of the most expensive places to try to buy a home? what makes us think we could ever know how to fundraise the money for some kind of project like that? nobody even knows what spiritual direction even is, so how could they want to give money to help create something like that? and what makes us think we could run that house on donations, just letting people pay whatever they're able to pay, anonymously, when they come to meet with someone? how are we going to pay salaries to spiritual directors on that kind of setup? what me, fundraise? what me, run something like this? how are we supposed to even let people know that we're there to offer them some kind of service like this, that they don't even know they might need? we're there to just love on them? we're there to walk with them through their journeys? what the heck does that even mean? and how the heck could any of this ever happen? and who am i to think i can do any of it, even the most itty-bitty parts? i have nothing. nothing.

and then kirk just said quietly, "maybe that's because it's exactly the kind of thing God can do. it's the kind of thing that lets him do it all, just like he does best."

which only made me cry even harder because i knew what he said was true. and that perhaps it was the exact reason we should keep walking in this direction. suddenly i was confronted with the thought, perhaps this is God showing up to answer my specific prayer. is this house idea yours, God? yes, christianne, because it's something only i can do. (but even in that moment, and even still, i've still been asking the question, doubting that i know for sure. and that's okay.)

basically, i felt in that moment that i had absolutely nothing to offer except my heart. and maybe a little business training on the side. but pretty much, just my heart. i had no resources. i had no spiritual formation training. i had no house. i had no manpower. i had no fundraising experience. i had no grant-writing skills. i had no contacts. and i was all the way in florida, far away from the place i thought all this was meant to be. i guess you could say that i also had no idea . . . how this would happen, i mean.

but you know what that also means, don't you? it means it would have to be all God. every single last bit of it. it would have to come about through the vehicle of prayer and the vast provision of his resources, plucked out of heaven and handed down to earth. and that scared the crap out of me. even though i've trusted him with many things before, this has got to be requiring of me -- of both of us, actually -- the most ruthless trust of all.

but we've said yes. we have no idea how any of this will come about and every idea of what is required. we need to apply for the spiritual formation program at isf (which in and of itself is going to be no easy feat), and we need to get accepted. we need to finish our degree programs here. we need to find a place to live in the orange county area, and we need to find jobs to support ourselves once we're there. we need to do all this while still living in florida. then we need to move ourselves from florida to california, which will cost a lot of money and, what's more, be quite a life-shift for kirk, who has lived in florida his entire life. we need to get student loans for the spiritual formation program, while student loan funding is on a bit of a downturn right now. and we need to, eventually, determine whether anything is really meant to be pursued when it comes to this house idea, and then uncover all the appropriate needs related to moving in that direction.

it's a lot. right now we are walking by faith, not sight, and we keep doing this because we cannot shake that God is in it. we wake up every day and ask each other how california feels that day. we ask each other at noon, when we see each other for lunch. we ask each other at home, when our days have come to an end. and we ask each other in bed, before we close our eyes for sleep. how does california feel today? how does isf feel today? how does the house idea feel today? how does moving feel today? how does finding work in los angeles feel today? all of which ultimately means, is God still confirming it in your spirit?

and the answer has always been yes.