By Andy Yang

Discipleship & Vulnerability

Posted by jimgrier on November 17, 2017

Discipleship and community can be a combination of words that bring up a range of experiences for people from intimate to intimidating.  For some it can create a mix of both, and in the end there’s comfort and discomfort in both.  For me, a couple of recent medical procedures brought both elements to light.

 I had a Deep Vein Thrombolysis (DVT) in my femoral vein that had been forming for years but didn’t become symptomatic until almost two months ago.  The symptoms started after I strained my groin on a hike.  As my groin recovered, pain moved down my leg over time and I thought it was muscular issues since they felt like cramps.  As I lost mobility and the pain got stuck in my calf and behind my knee, my leg got swollen and I went to the doctor.  I was immediately sent to the hospital and it was discovered that the clot had formed from my groin to my calf.  After the first DVT procedure, the clot started returning not long after and I had to redo the procedure again.  I spent a total of 7 days in the hospital between the two procedures.  The procedures entailed being on bedrest, not being allowed to move, being put on IV blood thinners and clot busters, having the clot sucked out, ballooning my vein, having stents put in, and being put back on blood thinners, then discharged after stabilization.  I have since had to adjust to wearing compression stockings, injectable blood thinners, and transitioning to oral blood thinners.  I have had to come to grips with the fact that my life was forever changed as these are practices I will have to do for the rest of my life. 

As I lay in the hospital bed and had to learn what was going on with my body and grieve the sudden losses the news brought, there was so much going on emotionally and spiritually.  I’ve had to say goodbye to physical activities I loved and was deeply saddened by it.  I was worried about what the medication and lifestyle changes meant for me long-term.  I was mourning the mortality of my body and that I suddenly have to manage it like a 70-year-old body with restrictions and limitations that were placed on me.  I was suddenly thrown into the “you’re no longer young” camp everyone goes through in life and I was angry that it wasn’t gradual.

Spiritually, I was so scared.  I was suddenly thrust into a position of not knowing.  I questioned how this was good for me.  I hated that this is in God’s plan.  I don’t understand how this is supposed to lead to plans of prosperity, hope and a future that is not harmful as Jeremiah 29:11 says.  Having gone through losing my sister to cancer and being a child of divorce, this really hit me spiritually in a different way and I felt ashamed that this lesser Goliath knocked me down spiritually more acutely than the other much bigger Goliaths.  I felt ashamed that I didn’t have the courageous faith I did with the other two giants to ask that God’s will be done over mine.  I wondered where God was.  I did not feel like a Paul-like disciple in those experiences, and felt more like the letdown Peter, and I was disappointed that it was not probably something God will tell me, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Nobody knew this but me.  Perhaps you relate to being spiritually scared, uncertain, ashamed, angry, sad, and/or disappointed. 

Simultaneously while all this was going on, not many people knew I was in the hospital because everything happened so fast.  Twice.  The only people who even knew I was in the hospital were my family.  My parents and stepmom visited as often as they could.  My step brothers and sister-in-laws bombarded me with loving messages and videos from them and their children.  I laughed in the bed and “aawwed” over how cute my nieces and nephews were.  I was thankful for modern technology and being able to see them digitally instead of not at all.  I promptly got a card from my step-Aunt and her words ministered to my soul as she wrote Psalms in it and I was reminded that since the beginning of time, God knew that this was going to happen, that the page would turn in the story, that it wasn’t the end of the world, and it will be used for His glory.  Above all else, I blown away by how quickly my family loved me. 

 It also so happened, that during my first DVT, there was a pending small group meeting and an email came to my phone that was organizing last minute details.  I was bummed that I had to inform them of my condition and sad I was going to miss the meeting.  Their responses were not what I expected.  I heard from them and they all wished me a positive recovery and sent prayers and thoughts my way.  A couple members set aside time in their schedule to meet with me on an individual basis.  After my first DVT, a couple pastors at the church I go to were jokingly and seriously mad that I didn’t inform them that I was in the hospital.  The other church I serve at was also mad in the concerned loving way that I didn’t inform them as soon as things happened.  I felt guilty that I dropped the ball on communicating but understood their hearts and I was blown away with the fact that despite how individual I felt in all of this, my community loved me and really cared for my well-being.  The second time around with the DVT, I was more communicative and more people reached out again.  I met with a pastor and I got to learn that while I didn’t have the strength to pray for myself, that it was my community’s job to do that for me.  My only job was to praise God.

The dynamic that I take away from all this is simple: Psalms.  David, a man after God’s own heart, shows discipleship in the most vulnerable, honest, intimate, and beautiful way in Psalms.  He spoke as an individual sharing his present (at the time of the writings) experiences.  We are all like David when it comes to this and we would all be able to write our own Psalms with what we are going through individually. 

Yet, the literary nature of Psalms also models the power and fruits of community.  David may or may not have known that his letters would be placed in what we call the Holy Bible.  He may or may not have known that this Bible, and subsequently his psalms, would be reproduced millions of times and would reach the ends of the Earth from wherever he wrote his psalms.  He may or may not have known that his discipleship experiences would be read by hundreds of millions of people from when he wrote them to the year 2017 A.D. and beyond.  He may or may not have known that his words, a man after God’s own heart, would be God-breathed and purposefully used to benefit each and every person to grace their eyes and hearts upon the Bible.  He may or may not have known that he his journaling of discipleship, would shape generations of people to come to love the same God and Jesus he knows.  All this from a man who was a shepherd, king, murder, adulterer, father, and husband.  One story.  One man sharing his story to a community invited others to share their story in their community and it multiplied from there.

I believe that while I may not have been like David in picking up my sling shot and going courageously towards this Goliath of DVTs, I was very much like David in my spiritual emotions and thoughts that I brought to God.  My story specifics may be uncommon.  But how I was spiritually scared, uncertain, ashamed, angry, sad, and disappointed is very common.  Making it known was a relief.  To be a beneficiary of people’s love and support in unexpected ways reminded me the essence of the community and the need to have it with individual discipleship.  It’s embarrassing to show and share that we are hurting, or that we fell short, missed the mark, or had a Peter and crow moment.  It’s counter-intuitive, but sharing these has tremendous power (see David).  One story shared lead to a ton of love, support and growth.  Getting to experience the Psalm-like relational benefits that spurned from sharing this chapter of my story helped me stay focused on God when it was easy to lose sight.  That would not have happened without family, church communities and multiple people praying for me as I continued to try to praise God. 

One to a ton.

That is the essence of what we wrestle with when investing our discipleship with community.  Past experience has taught that it can range from intimidating to intimate.  You never know the power of one story.  Your story.  It’s valid.  It’s important.  God knew it from the beginning of time and wants to and will use it for His glory.  Thus you and your story are defaultly a salt and light to the world.  Let’s not keep it hidden.  Let us follow in David’s footsteps of discipleship honesty and accept the fruits of the redemptive nature of Christ and how we play in that.  Together.

One to a ton.

 Andy

Andy Yang is a licensed LPC a guest contributor to SFC.  Andy practices in the Denver Area and if you would like to get in touch with him contact him at 720-446-8363 and andy@voyagescounseling.com

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