When I left home last week, my lawn was a mess. A dry brown mess. It almost looks like the roots of the grass are coming out of the ground looking for water. It's a perfect picture of what my heart has looked like for a while. What my lawn needs is what my soul needs: water and reseeding. I'm getting both during my time back at Asbury Seminary.
One of the greatest gifts that I have received in the Beeson Program has been the opportunity to come back to Wilmore, KY. When I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2003, I didn't waste any time getting the moving van loaded up and down the road. I was ready to start a new phase in life and ministry and I didn't look back much at all. I came back for two Ministry Conferences (2004 and 2006) but I used those primarily as an opportunity to visit and spend time with my good friends, the Houks. I didn't really miss anything but the friends.
Something happened in the intervening years that has made this trip very different. I've found myself in need of water for my parched soul. Not the clean, pure water I prefer to drink out of bottles but flowing rivers of living water from the one who gives when we ask. I've been looking to myself for so much: needs, wants, success, spiritual depth and a bunch of stuff I can't even list. I've completely deluded myself into believing that I can provide what only Jesus can give. The woman at the well in John 4 tells Jesus he doesn't have anything to get the water out of the well; it's like she's saying "Jesus, you don't have the tools to give me what I need." How often I have treated Jesus like he doesn't have the tools or the ability to give me what I need. Here in Wilmore, I'm constantly reminded of the sufficiency of Jesus and those reminders are stripping me of my self-reliance. It's hard. It's painful. But thank God who waters and refreshes his people!
Not only do I need the living water Jesus talked about, I'm also in need of reseeding. I've been told that later in the fall, when we get more rain (please, God!) it will be a good time to plant seed that will help regrow the grass in our yard. Dry, hard ground destroys growth and once the rain comes it's important to seed and fertilize for good growth. For the fruit of the ministry to grow, I need to reconnect with Jesus, the Bible, and the rich depth of Wesleyan theology and praxis. The books, conversations, prayer, worship, and even the walks have been scattering these seeds within me (speaking of seeds and reseeding, have you checked out the Seedbed?).
To stretch the metaphor a bit further, for a lawn to be really healthy you've got to get rid of the weeds. I've also had a time here of reflecting on the reading and the lectures that have exposed some weeds in my spiritual life and my vocation as a pastor. I'm not usually fond of that kind of self-reflection, but if I'm going to be the Christian and pastor I know God desires me to be, I've got to pull those weeds by God's power and his grace. I praise God that he has not only brought me here but also that he has matured me to a place where I can deal with those weeds. It's humbling but deeply grace-filled.
I'm amazed at how this has come together in such a short period of time. There is an intensity of spirit here among our group and in this community that has been exactly what I need. I don't think I ever realized how badly my heart was in need of repair until I stepped onto campus this time. I've been to a few different schools in my lifetime, but Asbury is truly my alma mater.