Ever feel like your life is a roller coaster? You have 'peak' experiences where you feel really close to God, and then you find yourself in the valley, wandering through the spiritual desert, feeling completely lost. Don't feel bad, even the saints had this experience. They called it the Dark Night of the Soul. I wrote about that experience here.
In the coaching work I do, I walk alongside leaders for a year at a time. It’s long enough to see some patterns emerge. As I reflect, I can see how I wrestle with some of the same patterns. One pattern I have seen emerge over many years in my life is an oscillation between trust and fear. I have recently begun to see this pattern as a sine wave.
By Zorgit (Own work) from Wikimedia
This sine wave oscillates from feeling full of the Spirit, confidently walking through doors that are opening, feeling truly blessed, to feeling drained, anxious and afraid, wandering through the spiritual desert. Moving from trust to worry. (See a post describing the worry/trust continuum here.)
As I discussed my own sine wave with my spiritual director, he helped me see something powerful. He asked me what caused the reversal that happens at the top and bottom.
As I thought it through, here’s what emerged. As I’m feeling flow, closer to God, towards the top of the sine wave, something Jung would call ‘inflation’ happens. My ego inflates. At the peak of the sine wave, I think I can do it myself, I’m mr. important person. God has no interest in propping up an inflated ego, so he pulls back and says, “Try it alone, let me know how that works out for you.” It’s all downhill from there. By the bottom of the sine wave, humility begins to emerge. After I’ve wandered through the desert for a while, humility dawns and I become useful to God again. Finally, the wind of the Spirit begins to fill my sails.
I further realized that the sine wave is not on a horizontal plane, but rather moving on a slow incline. It looks more like this image.It’s kind of like you climb a few hundred feet up a mountain, and find a wildflower meadow. You look back over your shoulder and you can see for miles. Everything looks clear. The trail you have traversed winds down the mountain below you.
You cross the meadow finding your way along a winding stream, slogging through the mud, trying to get used to the new terrain. As soon as you begin to get oriented, the trail enters deep forest. As you trudge through the forest, you feel lost, and can barely see the trail in front of you. You reach the next set of switchbacks and are climbing again. Slowly, through the woods, you see a ridge line, and say, “If I can just get there!” You finally pop out of the ridge and find a beautiful hanging lake, with a view out forever. You get a sense of that from this picture of a lake on the trail to Mt. Huron.
But, it is a false summit, because the trail enters the woods at the other end of the lake, and starts climbing again, towards the next ridge. With each movement we find ourselves in a new place on the map. It is very unsettled until a ‘new normal’ emerges over time. About that time, we are headed further up the mountain.
It’s helpful to think that in the life of the Christ follower, there is always someone further up the trail, and there’s always someone following us and trying to find a way. Beng in community allows us to be roped together on the mountain, depending on guidance from above, while offering a hand to those following after.
Our friend Beverly Gholson encourages Genie as we approach the summit of Mt. Huron, one of Colorado's Fourteeners.