Question #3 - "What From?"
And now in order to move forward, we must go backward. The "What For?" question often calls out the "What from?" question almost concurrently. Every disciple I know has to face this daunting and haunting internal inquiry...
The path of discipleship is often called “spiritual formation” in our generation. I like that synonym actually because we all know that formation that shapes the character and conscience of a person is a mix of victory and defeat, wounds and wins.
As a person grows in their faith and knowledge of Christ, it becomes noticeable that there are defaults in place—system preferences—that come “from” somewhere. We have been constructed (formed) from birth by various influences and circumstances, words and things we’ve witness that have become our “way of life”, our “way of seeing and thinking”…perceiving reality. It’s called our belief system.
As we’re asking the question of “what am I living for?” (motives) it’s sized up against the question of “where am I coming from?” (upbringing) The soul knows it needs to unpack the past and do some heavy lifting as it relates to plowing through ones backstory. There are great memories and bad ones. There are sweet blessings and devastating blows. Each experience molds and makes us who we are. As we begin to follow Jesus seeking to emulate his life here and now, it becomes evident at some point that what he is calling us to is quite different that where we would naturally go or how we would normally respond on our own. For me, it begins a pilgrimage backward called “What from?”
It goes something like this…
“I got feel this persisting hurt in my life.”…What from?
“I always get a weird feeling when I’m around them.”…What from?
“I notice that I’m afraid right now.”…What from?
“I have an ongoing thought about that.”…What from?
“For some reason I feel like I’m unsafe.”…What from?
“I don’t know why, but yesterday made me feel worthless.”…What from?
“Something about them makes me tighten up.”….What from?
“When they said that I got so angry.”…What from?
I’ve notice with people that when asked “Where does that come from?” that most of them initially answer “I don’t know.” Of course this is just a knee-jerk response to either buy some time or deflect the probing. But if you lovingly continue asking the origin of a response, feeling, mood, reaction, or decision, it’s amazing the sources that surface.
It often goes back to something that happened to them or something they did that they’ve never told anyone. That’s why one of my favorite things people say to me in conversation is “I’ve never told this to anyone before…” First, it’s an honor for someone to entrust something that sacred, sensitive, or secretive to you, but it also is the beginning of learning “what makes a person tick”. Why they are the way they are and what roadblocks are preventing them from moving beyond a certain point in their “spiritual formation”, their discipleship.
I was with someone a little while ago and I just felt like I was being stonewalled in a conversation. He was the one that wanted to get with me to talk about something from his past that was very important, but he wouldn’t go there. I was patient and was gently asking questions about his past, but he was being vague and in a sense, guarding his past from my inquiry. After a while, I was frustrated that we weren’t getting anywhere and I blurted out: “What gives?” Meaning: What are you so afraid to share and why is it so hard to admit and explain? As they proceeded to share their backstory, it became clear why they were nervous to “go there”. But I’ve learned this: Until you ‘go there’ you aren’t ‘going anywhere’.
Here’s why Question #3 matters. You can’t just put Jesus on top of an unprocessed, unreconciled past. It’s like putting carpet over cat pee in a house remodel. It will be great for a little while, but the odor will ruin the new carpet and you’ll be right back to where you started. You have to do the hard thing…rip out the subflooring, removing the rotting or compromised floor joists and replace them with new material. It’s a pain in the neck, costly as all get out, and time consuming, but when it’s done right it doesn’t need to be done again. That doesn’t mean when you talk about a rotten part of your life that you won’t circle back around to it at various seasons of your life as a point of reference, but the power of its control over you will be gone. You will be able to talk about it without shame, guilt, anger, or resentment.
This is called ‘healing’ and it’s critical to growing. You can be forgiven, but remain unhealed. This will affect the quality of your Christian life immensely. You will still be going to heaven when you die, you just won’t be experiencing heaven on earth while you live. And Jesus makes it clear: He wants “rivers of living water to flow from us”; he wants us “to live the abundant life”. That doesn’t happen until we tackle the “What from?” stuff that haunts us and hinders us in big and little ways each day.
If “What for?” is the ‘why behind the what’, “What from?” is the ‘where behind the why’. When you begin to learn about why someone does something based on where they’ve been and what they’ve been through, things start to make more sense and you’re able to combat lies with truth, hurt with healing, wrong thinking with right thinking. Constructs are reconstructed, and people feel the power to get over things that have forever kept them hemmed in. They are no longer a prisoner of their past; their past actually becomes their best platform. Why? ‘Cause God doesn’t waste any material in our life. He doesn’t waste pain, failure, fear, privilege, or entitlement. All these things can be redeemed and used in your story to connect with other people’s stories. Your abuse can help someone else. Your hurt can connect you to someone else who is hurting. Your experience of rejection sets you up to speak to someone experiencing unspeakable rejection or abandonment. What Satan meant to use to silence you ends up being used by God as your unique voice for deep ministry. I’ve seen it time and time again.
“What from?” is often skipped in spiritual formation to the detriment of the disciple. You can’t just treat Jesus as an ‘add on’ or another ‘app’. You must venture back and deconstruct insufficient foundations and destructive learned behaviors and patterns that will disallow you from being who God is calling you to be, becoming “like Christ”. You do yourself no favors rushing into adding something new without actively removing and replacing something old.
I fully realize that certain parts of a person’s past are painful to revisit and relive. I’m not minimizing the courage it takes to “go back” before you “move forward”. Some of the things have been covered with survival techniques and coping mechanisms that will make you feel like you’re peeling away the only thing protecting you and running the risk of undoing yourself, destroying everything you’ve worked so hard to have. The Enemy will whisper to you: “It’s no big deal. You’re fine. It’s not worth it. You’re taking this too seriously. This will ultimately hurt you even more.” I could go on and on with the wily whispers of the Deceiver, but if you have someone walking with you that is discipling you and caring deeply about your soul, you aren’t alone, they know the terrain you’re heading back toward and will be there every step of the way. Every time you find healing and the freedom that comes with that healing, you open up new possibilities for your future.
This leads me to the next question, “What if?” This has to do with a newfound ability to dream and desire that has been stunted for so long, held hostage by the power of your past. For once, you begin to think about the potential and possibilities for your life. But I’d be lying if this new access of the heart didn’t also cause you to contemplate new risks and fears and unknowns in the adventure that is opening in front of you as well. But after playing it safe for so many years, it almost feels liberating to put yourself out there to make a difference and literally change the future, yours and other peoples. We were made to take the healing that comes from answering the “What from?” and channeling it into the dreams that God put in our heart to wonder “What if?”
This is where you meet your designed destiny.