My spiritual transformation at Foundry -- and yours
The Power of Spiritual Transformation
I've heard people say at Foundry, "We need you more than we need your money." At first I thought they were referring to volunteerism -- serving as a Sunday school teacher, communion steward, or an usher -- but I've come to realize that it means much more than that. We really do mean, "Foundry needs YOU -- all of you -- both the good and the not so good."
You see, we're about the business of personal transformation and spiritual growth as a faith community, so we should expect to come to know the whole person, not just the Sunday morning fabulous.
We at Foundry are just like any other community and we deal with real issues -- resentment, addiction, body image, depression, shame, worry, brokenheartedness, grief, and much more.
We come with cell phone batteries less than 20 percent charged (or no phone at all), runs down our hose (or barelegged), broken purse straps (or no money in our wallet), forgotten bifocals (or white cane dependent), gluten intolerant (or hungry with an empty refrigerator), and expired driver's licenses (or unable to obtain an identity document). These are just a few of the heavy problems that are no stranger to Foundry or any other faith community.
We each bring to Foundry an individual perspective of what pain looks and feels like, but we are held together through our common brokenness. We all come looking for Jesus -- that saving grace for unfair circumstances, unwise decisions, or unrealized potential.
For me, the first identifiable moment of spiritual transformation at Foundry occurred shortly after I arrived when Pastor Dawn encouraged the congregation to participate in an online survey to examine our prayer life. I was honest in my response: I had a hard time believing in the power of prayer because I had been praying since the sixth grade that God would make me straight. I continued that prayer for the next 25 years until I gave up on God. The sanctuary was packed the following Sunday after I completed the survey, but it felt like Pastor Dean was looking straight at me when he said, "If you are gay, stop praying for God to make you straight. Being gay is not a disease; it is who God intended you to be."
Something clicked, and all of the guilt and shame I had been carrying around for so long was amazingly lifted. In hindsight, I can say it was the power of being affirmed from the pulpit as a child of God and Dean naming the fear that had such a stronghold on my life. But on that Sunday morning, it was nothing short of a miracle. It was life transforming.
What I had seen for so long as the primary contributor of my brokenness, was in fact the foundation of my greatest spiritual gifts. Living an authentic and honest life as an openly gay man, sharing my story, and using it help others who are struggling have led to unbelievable opportunities to connect, to stretch beyond my faith limits, and to see people completely different. As we change, so does the world around us.
At Foundry, everyone shares the responsibility of being ministers of the faith. Henri Nouwen captures much of our embedded theology this way: "It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped."
As we continue this period of stewardship discernment, I would humbly challenge you to think about what's behind the dirty curtain and to take another look at the painful symptoms.
For me, unchecked resentment, anxiousness, and disappointment spill over into all aspects of my life and relationships. As much as I try, I can't leave these at home on Sunday morning. Oftentimes when I bicycle or walk to Foundry, I chuckle as I picture myself pulling up to the church steps in a U-Haul with all my baggage.
Pastor Theresa reminded us last week that, to be transformed, we first have to let go of everything we're holding onto. This week, I would ask you to think about what's in your baggage and whether you're ready to lighten your load.
By laying down our burdens, we now have room in our hearts and in our hands to receive the spiritual gifts that God will use through us here at Foundry to change the world.