A few weeks ago, I passed a charred barren field just minutes from my home. It surprised me because normally it is a beautiful, lush field that reminds me of scenes in The Sound of Music. In the past, God has met me here often as I’ve prayed, reflected, and meditated.
Although I’ve visited it often, when I saw it in this condition, I didn’t want to go there. When I looked at it, the barren field was a painful reminder of what my life felt like at that moment. That’s because the “news feed” of my life had been a mish-mash of online headlines and current-day realities that looked and felt like that barren field:
- Murdered black men whose killers had no consequence
- Black men cuffed and pulled out of coffee shops for waiting on their friend
- Bombs dropped on countries (both by themselves and by others)
- My pastor – and my church – plastered on the front page of the Chicago Tribune for allegations of misconduct
- Strong and respected church leaders speaking out on both sides of the issue
- My job restructured and the search for a new job is daunting
- Finances are tight
- A long-term loving relationship has dwindled to nothing
- My self-care is suffering
When I pondered its ugliness, I started making up stories about what it all means for my life: “The world is a messed up, broken, painful place to exist.” “All men are capable of falling. They can’t be trusted.” “You’re not good enough, wise enough, educated enough, strong enough, attractive enough, athletic enough, personable enough.
Does any of this ever happen to you? Do you ever feel like life’s problems weigh all too heavily on your mind and heart? Do you ever wonder if the tools you’ve learned in The Crucible Project can really serve you while you’re getting crushed by mental headlines?
Me too. And, the answer, I’ve learned, is a resounding YES!
In the split seconds I saw and felt the emptiness of that field, I was able to switch gears and ask myself many of the questions that we ask each other on an initial or second-level weekend:
- What am I feeling?
- What do I want to feel?
- What are the messages I’m hearing?
- When have I felt these in the past (regression)?
- What would I have ideally felt?
- What is God’s truth about who I am?
- Am I leaning on a brother, when I need a hand?
In just a few moments, the feelings had dissipated. I did not feel alone. Scared.
I had a choice to make. Believe and give power to the lies I was telling myself, or replace them with truths: “The world is full of beauty and miracles, practically everywhere.” “Men fall and get back up.” “I’m surrounded by strong, trusting friends.” “I am good enough, wise enough, educated enough, strong enough, attractive enough, athletic enough, personable enough.” “I will amount to plenty and make this world a better place.”
I love that our work gave me freedom in that moment to interrupt the negative ruts in my mind. Our work allows me to stand in the light of God and reminds me of His many whispers in scripture to not fear:
- Don’t be dismayed, for He is my God. He will strengthen me and help me; He will uphold me with His righteous hand. Isaiah 41:10
- He won’t leave me as an orphan. He will come to me. John 14:18
- Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I am. Joshua 1:9
And now back to the field. After weeks of seeing it barren and charred, I drove by it recently and saw that it had transformed once again. What once looked bleak had now become lush. What looked like death was now alive.
I felt peace as I saw that new green growth because in that moment, God used His once-charred-but-now-fertile field as a visual reminder that God makes all things new!
By Tony Bradburn
Tony completed his initial weekend in June of 2008 and is a graduate of our two-year transformational program. Tony hails from the idyllic shades found in Crystal Lake, IL. After being adopted from the Dominican Republic at the age of 6 months into a family in Elgin with two biological children, going through school, getting sober, becoming a teacher and a football coach, getting married, going to more schooling to get a few Master’s degrees, having four beautiful children, moving into educational administration, getting divorced, and now having principalship duties, it’s safe to say that Tony’s path has never been a straight one.
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Interior