Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Journey Inward

Four months ago I picked up a book by Reggie McNeal entitled Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. I was about to embark on my second reading through the book. At the same time, a friend of mine recommended a book by Peter Scazzero entitled The Emotionally Healthy Church. Little did I know at that time that these two books along with some nudging by the Holy Spirit would take me on a journey deep into my own heart and soul.

In the last four months I have come to the realization that I’m really not the person I hoped that I would be at the age of 31. I am a husband and a father. I did want that. I own a home and have a well paying job. I did want that. I have a few friends and wonderful family. I did want that. But, at the same time, I have a pretty achy back. I didn’t want that. I get really bad headaches. I didn’t want that. I am sad a lot. I didn’t want that. I am opinionated. I didn’t want that. I like control. I didn’t want that. I can be judgmental. I didn’t want that. There are a couple of other things, but no need to put all of my dirty laundry out there.

As these months have crawled along at a snails pace, I have begun to journey deeper into my own thoughts and feelings. I have asked questions, I have changed behaviors, I have sought the Lord. Behavioral changes have been good and healthy, but what I have truly been in search of is a heart transplant. (I am not writing from a theological standpoint at this point.) I am simply saying that I have needed God to change me at a deeper level. I have come to figure out in the last four months that God first wanted me to know what I didn’t know before he would come in and do surgery. It has been a time of being honest with myself. Evaluating my thoughts and my feelings as honestly as I know how and then learning how to evaluate more honestly.

I first read McNeal’s book, Practicing Greatness, about a year and a half ago. At that time, I distinctly remember a couple of challenges proposed in his book that I thought were very good challenges. I even thought that I should put myself up to the challenge, but then thought better of it. As I moved through the pages of Practicing Greatness this time, I felt that the Holy Spirit was gently pressing down on me with the weight of the world to not just read the words but to actually make a move. So, when I got to the chapter on managing emotions, I read very carefully; I knew that this was a chapter that I needed to pay close attention too. Basically, McNeal posed the idea, ‘If you want to know what kind of person / leader you are, simply ask those around you.’ This was one of those ‘challenges’ that I thought I should participate in last year when I read the book but then chose not too. This time around, I had no choice. I had to step up to the plate. So, I drafted four questions and I sent them to four people. Those who I sent the questions to had all known me for different amounts of time and I felt that they were the people who the Holy Spirit had inspired me to ask. The questions were:

1. How do you see me as a leader?
2. Am I a hostile person?
3. Do you see in blind spots in my life / ministry?
4. Do you like me?

This was an exercise that I was not particularly excited about. I gave these few people permission to be brutally honest with me, because if they were not willing to be honest, then the exercise would be of no value. Well…they were honest…and the good news was that at the end of each interview, each person said they liked me… most of the time. As for everything else, let’s just say I had (have) a lot to work on.

At the same time, I started reading Scazzero’s book on emotional health. In the fourth chapter of this book there is an emotional inventory for the reader to work through to assess where they rank on the emotional maturity scale in 6 different areas. The four levels of maturity are:

Emotional Infant
Emotional Child
Emotional Adolescent
Emotional Adult

The inventory determined that I rank at the child or adolescent level in the six categories. I was so upset after taking the test that I put the book in my satchel and left it there for about 3 weeks before getting back to it. (That was part of my emotional immaturity.) I did get back to the book however and it has played an integral part in the growing process.

It’s kind of interesting because I started this blog exactly one year ago. My first blog entry was entitled Opinions, Listening, Optimism and Bitching. One of my goals in 2007 was to work towards becoming less opinionated and bitch less. I did accomplish my goals in some ways, but perhaps more importantly than just trying to change the behaviors, 2007 was the year that Jesus began to show me why opinions and bitching even exist in my life. I believe that 2008 is a year of going deeper, albeit painful at times. It’s not just about changing the behavior, but truly having a change of heart and becoming the person that God has created me to be.

So, now you know. This is where I’ve been. I’ve been in the operating room and I’ve been slowly asking God to cut a little deeper and remove more and more of the stuff that has no place in my life and put more of the good stuff in me. I pray that 2008 will indeed be a year filled with looking more like Jesus as I learn more about myself and experience more of Him.


Chad (Captain) Estes said...

Brian, thanks for the honesty in your blog. The fruit of this work in your life is good. It is appealing. It is fragrant. I could tell by the tone in your voice that change was occurring in you that I wanted in me. That has helped me in this journey of emotional maturity. I thank you for leading the way and for very graciously offering your friendship when I haven't had much to give.

susie s said...

Very well said! I would say that what the Lord's been doing in me as of late is giving me the same desire He's giving you...for a transformed heart...a heart like His in every aspect. I had never completely read The Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard becaue His writing style was so DEEP and I didn't want to have to read sentences twice to get the meaning. But you know how books come back to us at a season when God opens our hearts and minds with his truth and understanding. I picked up the book again recently and has it ever helped me understand what God's doing in my heart at this time. The book is about how the whole intent of the gospel is the renovation of the human heart and how that will look in our ordinary human lives. It's truly worth the read, considering where all our hearts seem to be at this surgery. Thanks for speaking the truth with an authentic heart!

Crispin Schroeder said...

Dang that Peter Scazzero book!

In that book he makes the statement that our emotional wholeness has to do with our capacity to experience God. The hope is that in such a painful proccess one finds that there are experiences of God and his kingdom that could have never even been imagined before.

As your friend I admire the courage that you have shown in this proccess. I think this one of those turning points in your life that you will reference for years to come.

Greg Prosch said...

Brian, your authenticity is commendable and so much more valuable than any facade you might choose to wear. I for one am glad to know that I am not alone in my challenges on this journey.

Thank you for being real and providing some inspiration to read a book that I have been approaching with some degree of trepidation.