“We do not want to be beginners [at prayer]. but let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!”- Thomas Merton
I am an evangelical millennial who did all the right things. I went to seminary, I grew up in the church. I was on leadership with InterVarsity in undergrad. I was always a “good” girl, at times a leader, at times not. And even though I thought a lot about it, I have not yet left the evangelical fold.
But I don’t think I have much expertise or wisdom to give from those experiences. The most wisdom I have ever gleaned were from my hardships.
I think the Christian life is beginning again- over and over and over again. Each day we experience a new resurrection. But we often neglect to walk every day in in that redeemed life.
So I am a beginner, like you. And in this blog I speak from the place of being a beginner, not an expert. I speak from the place of knowing I need to be renewed every day. I know I don’t have the answers.
I don’t like books that pretend they have the answers.
Therefore, I sadly don’t like most evangelical writers I have read, even when I do mostly agree with their perspectives. I could get into a long rant about this, but I’ll get there in a longer post. Most writers I do like happen to be Catholic or Mainline. These writers are exploratory and poetic in their writing. And on all the majors of faith, I am in easy agreement with.
This is why Diane Langberg is such a delight to read and experience as a person. She happens to be in the evangelical camp– her writing is much more inviting than many other evangelicals I have read. And her prose is crisp and clear. She has a way with words. She happens to be a leading Christian psychotherapist in the field of trauma recovery– a field I want to dive further into. So she’s a wee bit of an influence.
She also has the wisdom to say things directly like the prophetess she is. Not everyone has such powerful authority when they speak– and she does. I sat at her lectures at Covenant Seminary, hanging on every word.
I wandered around my friends’ house a couple weeks ago, while dogsitting for them. As I always do, I snooped through their books. I picked up a copy of “In Our Lives First” from a stack of books, curled up on the couch with the dog and read the first two pages.
I placed the book down, and knew something in me had changed.
She wrote about the dangers of the counseling world to our faith— not worldview challenges, but challenges when you are exposed to a wounded world every single day of your professional life. Here’s what she speaks to counselors regarding our navigating a dark world:
I believe one of the dangers inherent in our quarrying is that it can lead us to slander the character of God. We begin to define Him according to the things we hear from others, rather than according to the things we hear from Him. We begin to see God through the lens of sin and sorrow, rather than viewing sin and sorrow through the lens of His character.
Wow. I never thought of how as I have slipped into a more cynical view of things, I could be slandering who God is. She speaks of the next danger- erosion of faith. That’s been going on. The past couple of years of counseling, I have had times where the darkness of the human condition completely clouds my view of God. Langberg really normalized my experience. I did not realize that this was a struggle of basically every Christian in the field– and every human, but without the Christian language. A co-worker of mine told me earlier, that part of his soul had to die to work with people who felt abandoned due to borderline personality disorder.
In just two pages, Langberg cuts to the very core of my current disillusionment– and I realized– here I am. Time to begin again.
I know that Ms. Langberg is a beginner too, having to begin over and over and over again. Having to help people process trauma everyday and process her own. That’s why her words sink so deeply. There’s humility.
After all, we are all merely beginners.
I am going to be using this devotional a lot as I write in this blog– and reflect on what I have gleaned from Ms. Langberg and the Holy Spirit. More ahead
“There are no experts in the company of Jesus. We are all beginners.”- Eugene Peterson