Spiritual Formation III: The Wall

Posted: May 14, 2013 in Discipleship, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Growth
Tags: , ,

The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co. 2004. 268 pp.

Instead of a traditional book review of The Critical Journey, I wanted to share a personal life journey, structurally connected to this book. I would strongly encourage you to get and read the book, but perhaps sharing my own journey will resonate with you in your own growth. Drs. Hagberg and Guelich talk about 6 stages in the journey of spiritual development. My review went pretty long, so I divided it up into sections. Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers from the second edition.

Spiritual Formation II: The Critical Journey, part 1

Spiritual Formation II: The Critical Journey, part 2

Between stage 4 (The Journey Inward) and stage 5 (The Journey Outward), Drs. Hagberg and Guelich describe a crisis time, that they call the wall. This “wall” frequently stops people from growing farther, but those who go through the wall come out completely changed.

The Wall

In 1999, we arrived in Poland. After a couple of years of language school, we partnered with the Baptist church, and a great Polish pastor, who became my close friend and mentor. In December 2006, he moved on to another church, and I “temporarily” became pastor of our church. While we worked together, we worked to plant other churches, usually with little success. The work was hard, with very little fruit.

September 2007, we discovered that for seven years he had been having an affair, and manipulating people and events to cover his sin. Although on the outside I think I succeeded in leading our church through a very difficult time, on the inside I was dying. I encouraged others to forgive, but I felt terribly betrayed, and couldn’t forgive him. I was very disappointed with God, for bringing us to Poland, and bringing us to work with this man. I blamed him for our lack of results, and felt even more betrayed, by him and by God.

On page 107, Dr. Hagberg describes how difficult the wall can be for ordained leaders of religious groups. My position as pastor and missionary made it very difficult for me to be honest – with God and myself – as I faced this crisis. I wanted to give up, to go “home,” – but I couldn’t. My pride, and my position, wouldn’t let me. Moving through the wall, though, happened in two steps.

The first step occurred in 2008 when we were preparing for a Luis Palau evangelistic campaign. We rented a couple of rooms in the center of town for a prayer vigil leading up to the campaign. I was frequently responsible for being on duty there, so I spent hours in prayer, but also worked through a book called Work of Heart, by Reggie McNeal. As I worked through the questions in the book, designed to help us understand God’s will in our life, God did a work in my heart. The second step came through a year-long home assignment – our first, after ten years in Poland – in 2009-10. And the most important element that year that let me go through the wall was rest. As someone who had been stuck at stage three, focused since age thirteen – nearly thirty years – on “doing for God,” taking a year with very few responsibilities forced me to re-evaluate God, and my self-worth. On page 123, Hagberg talks about the necessity of “solitude,” away from the work week. I wholeheartedly affirm her statement: “racing around defending our busy lifestyle is definitely not a way to solicit God’s help. It simply means that we are not ready yet.”

How about you? Have you hit the wall? Have you gone through it?

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