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The Next Right Thing

First things first: SPOILER WARNING LEVEL - Low. I will say my opinion on Frozen 2, and this whole blog is about a song from the movie. The song can be found here. That said, no plot points or character development from the movie will be discussed - just the text of the song and how it made me feel. If that's too much for you, see ya after you see the movie!

Frozen 2 is awesome. I know, shocking that I liked a Disney movie. But seriously, I've seen it twice at this point and I can't wait to see it again. The soundtrack is awesome, the characters are great, and I just loved it. They even made me like Olaf, which I did not think was possible. 

Alright, time to get to the song. This one isn't going to be very abstract, it's going to be more personal. My wife and I have been talking a lot about being radically transparent people. We both believe that one of the weaknesses of the church is that people feel paralyzed to share their sins, their fears, their doubts, their struggles, their pains. People put up a front. So, here I am, laying down my guard on the Internet, knowing that what I put here will be able to be held over my head forever. O well, God knows it - others might as well, too.

Let me set up some caveats upfront. Firstly, I have no reason to feel the way I do. My life is unbelievably good. I have an amazing wife, I have a wonderful family, I have a home, I have a job, I have fantastic friends, I have a supportive church. I am unbelievably blessed. 

Secondly, there's no trauma or anything like that in my life. If anything, I feel quite guilty for how little I have suffered in my life. The circumstances of my life are so easy, it often makes me wonder if I am truly living into the radical call of the Gospel.

Lastly, I'm not aware of any unconfessed sin. There may be some secret sin, but I am definitely not aware of it, and one of the most common prayers in my life derives from Psalm 139: "Search me O Lord and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me, and guide me in the path everlasting."

Okay, here we go. I became a Christian 18 years ago when I was 16. At that time, it was like a key unlocked the emotional side of my life, and I began to feel things deeply and excitedly. I reveled in all the ways that God showed Himself. I rejoiced that I felt His presence. As the years went on, I found that my experience of God ebbed and flowed. There would be periods where God seemed distant. During those times I would examine myself to find the sin that had caused the gap. I would dig deeper into the Scriptures, desperate to be near to God. I would listen to more music, or find things to fast from, or whatever it was to make sure that I didn't "forsake my first love."

These ebbs and flows happened throughout seminary, where I first encountered St. John of the Cross' idea of The Dark Night of the Soul. For those who don't know the concept, here's my understanding: it's a period where God pulls away so that the disciple will put their loves and priorities in order. It's a spiritual discipline where God hides and allows us to experience the absence of His presence that we may realize how much of our lives we truly fill with not-God. For me, it's a sense of God just pulling away and refusing to give vision and consolation. It was during these years as well that I was given condolence from those in leadership over me that things change, that God relates to us in different ways over time. Being accountable with others helped me recognize the differences between a sin that needed to be addressed, or the Enemy moving against me, or God calling me into a different season, or if it was just going to be an experience of distance.

For the last three years, it has been a prolonged dark night. During this time, I have fought to stay engaged in the Church, in ministry, in the Scriptures, in seeking God's face. I have desperately sought guidance and wisdom. I have been constantly in prayer and in worship, in service and in labor. And over and over again, the constant push has been to "do the next right thing". Why? Because I have been taught by the wise Bob Drummond "to not doubt in the dark what you knew to be true in the light." I have been convinced by Don Allsman, Rick Durrance, and the saints of the past that the Church is God's chosen instrument in the world to proclaim His Gospel in word and deed. So I keep going, even when I don't feel like it.

I love to plan. I love to have a big vision, and then to plan out how to accomplish that vision. I love to be thinking and debating ideas. I love to be seeking the truth of a matter or to hear the ways that people come up with to solve problems. I love to learn, to discuss, and to grow. I love to explore the ramifications of thoughts and ideas and debug stuff. But for the last few years, I have found that, like Anna, I can't look too far ahead because my thoughts start to spiral. It's all just too much for me to take. My mind, really the only gift I have to offer back to God, becomes a weapon of sin and death. And in those moments, in those spirals, in that darkness and pain, there is one thing that keeps me going, that keeps me sane, that gives me hope that maybe, just maybe I am still found pleasing in His sight.

That one thing is that he gives me the strength to take one more step forward. That thing is that He empowers me to get done the next thing that I need to get done to get through the day. That thing is that He stops my thoughts and gives me the focus necessary to "break it down to this next breath, this next step, this next choice is one that I can make." If you prefer Bible to Bell, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Wanting to be faithful, wanting to experience God, wanting to please Him and know that you are in His will can be paralyzing at times. The Calling is so vast, so great, and so eternal, it's easy to feel small, powerless, and impotent. I'm reminded of my students' programming projects. I give them a project and a due date and they look at me like I am crazy. Then I help them think through how to break the problem into parts. And then break those parts into parts. And then those parts into even smaller parts. Then I ask them if they can do those little things. Those next right things. I praise God that He has been faithful with me to keep doing that. He hasn't written me off. He hasn't abandoned me. I may not feel Him, I may not experience Him the way that I want to or have in the past. He may seem to have "gone to a place I cannot find," but He is still faithful. And the Call He has given me is the same Call that He has given all of humanity since Eden: to hear His voice, and do the next right thing.

I don't know if any of this is going to resonate with anyone else. I don't know if this will ever minister to anyone at all. All that I do know is this: when God moves in our lives, the next right thing is to bear witness. God has shown up for me through this song in Frozen 2, I have a platform to bear witness to my experience of Him, so the next right thing is to do so. May God be glorified by this humble offering.


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