“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
– Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (The Message version)
I am a yoga teacher … period … full stop … the end. And I LOVE it!!! While this may seem pretty obvious to you, like “duh, EVERYONE knows Lang’s a yoga teacher,” it wasn’t to me until quite recently. Ironically, I have several of the WORST THINGS in my life to thank for this MASSIVE BLESSING. Specifically, to my last ex-wife for wrecking my heart, my accident for ending my Air Force career, and newlife for rejecting me as a pastor I give a heartfelt “thank you”. Seriously, I have deep gratitude for the traumas in my life because they either make you and I bitter or better, and God is in the business of retelling ALL stories, reshaping ALL people, and remaking ALL the world to turn all life’s crap into BLISS. Truth be told, the Divine quite literally finds great pleasure in using the SUCK to actually bring even MORE joy (NOT that said suck comes from God though).
Back in the day I had plans for my life. I had goals, visions, and things I intended to do. I was going to do 20 or more years in the Air Force before retiring, I wanted an assignment in Germany or somewhere else in Europe, I planned to be a commander, I wanted to and figured I’d make the rank of Colonel, I trusted I’d soon marry and stay with Carla for the rest of my life, and more. ALL of these were supremely doable and quite likely given where I was career and life wise in 2008 … Yet, a freak family hiking accident that November should have cost me my life and did end my Air Force career. Pretty much ALL my quite realistic plans amounted to nothing and didn’t come true.
The accident (our name for me freakishly falling off a cliff thirty feet headfirst onto a boulder) isn’t the point of this blog, but just to catch everyone up I’ll give you a summary of its effects. After two months in the ICU and four months in inpatient rehabilitation, it left me with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), no peripheral vision (I have basically half the field of vision of a normal person), no depth perception (my right eye is crooked and its vision doesn’t line up with my left eye), severely weakened mentally and physically (then anyway), unable to drive, with seizure disorder, and medically retired from the Air Force, among other things.
(This is me after I’d been in the ICU for nearly 2 months and was getting “better”)
That said, Carla and I did get married. Since all my other big plans for life had gone by the wayside, I devoted much of my passion, intention, and attention to her and our marriage. In many ways the severity of the accident, when it came to my brain injury, made me re-go through the stages of mental and emotional development we all experience as kids and young adults. As a result, and since Carla had been my primary caregiver, she became my attachment figure. This meant I put MUCH of my self-worth and self-esteem in her and her affections. So, as a result, when she decided to divorce me (without ever giving definitive reasons), it nearly crushed me.
Now, while I say these things somewhat strongly, I’d like to reiterate I have little but gratitude for both the accident and Carla (a beautiful soul). I’m literally not blaming her at all, I’m only pointing out the severity of these traumas on and in me. These life-altering, CRAPPY events could have left me bitter, broken, and bummed, but they didn’t. Why?
Don’t worry, I’m going to return to newlife, pastoring, and yoga, but first some Divine fun! 🙂
Full disclosure, I’m a bit of a words geek and I ADORE Jesus. 🙂 That said, there’s an AMAZING word that only appears in the Bible once: Anakephalaiossathai. Try to say that word three times fast! LOL. Paul uses this compound word in Ephesians as the EMPHATIC punch line in the following: “With all wisdom and insight 9 [God] has made known to us the mystery of [the Divine] will, according to [God’s] good pleasure … set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to GATHER UP all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1.8b-10, New Revised Standard Version)
Here anakephalaiossathai is translated “to gather up” … but what exactly does that mean? Quick side note, I’m getting the following info from Rob Bell and his book What is the Bible? (which is SO GOOD btw). The Greek word (the New Testament was virtually all written in Ancient Greek) is a mathematical term and is translated a number of ways by experts. Anakephalaiossathai means “to bring to unity”, “to sum up”, “to gather up”, “to recapitulate”, or “to bring to a head”. “Recapitulate” is a fancy word meaning retell, and I think all of these translations are pointing toward this act. In summary, this means God’s pleasure is to retell ALL STORIES EVERYWHERE through Christ as AMAZING tales of Light and Love. Period. Full-Stop. NOT in a way that excludes the crappy parts of our lives, but by INCLUDING the worst things we’ve experienced or done and using them for good, joy, Light, and Love.
To quote Rob: “When you retell a story, you don’t remove the nasty bits or the unfortunate events—you include them. But in retelling things, they appear in a new light. They are what they are, and yet when they’re retold they take on new meaning and weight and perspective.”
Think of your life. Bring to mind a “terrible” vacation, a road trip that went off the rails, a prank with your buddies that went astray, that time you got busted for ______, a night when nothing went according to plan, a horrible date, or something along those lines. Whenever you’ve retold one of those “tragedies”, what happened? People laughed. You embellished the sucky bits and made them sound even worse than they were. When we retell our tragedies, they turn into comedies. Our traumas become fuel for transformation. Darkness turns into Light and Love.
As Rob writes: “What were once the worst parts of the story, in your retelling, become the best bits. Now, back to the verse. According to Paul, God is retelling … everything. The world is fractured, broken; parts are lying scattered all over the place—and it brings God pleasure to bring it all back together in unity. In Christ.”
While this is the only time this specific word is used in the Bible, it’s practically littered with news SO GOOD it blows my mind. In Colossians 1 God is pleased to reconcile ALL things through Jesus. Jesus says ALL things will be RENEWED in Matthew 19. In Acts 3 Peter declares God will restore EVERYTHING. I could go on, but I think you get the point. God is and will join us in resurrecting ALL the bits of EVERYONE’s lives (ESPECIALLY the ugly parts) as bliss, joy, and Love.
This leads me to resurrection. In the Christian tradition we believe Death does NOT have the final word, Love does. At some point after we die God will resurrect us with remade bodies. While that’s pretty dang cool, in my humble opinion there’s an even sweeter aspect to this. Resurrection IS … NOW. This means God takes great joy in bringing all the big and small “deaths” in our lives back to life. Not just any life though, but a richer, fuller, and more joyful life. Be it abuse, divorce, illness, disability, unemployment, addiction, or (insert a sucky thing in your life here), our Creator is constantly seeking to join us in retelling these traumas as triumphs.
Please note, I’m NOT saying this is necessarily immediate or anything like that. It often takes our participation, counseling, community, and time. Yet, regardless of if you think this is literally true (and I really do think it is), I’ve found living as if it were has totally transformed my life, as well as the worlds of others I admire or am close to.
Now, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming: newlife, pastoring, and yoga. 🙂 Following the accident and retirement from the Air Force, I had to figure out what to do with my life. The choice for me was clear, I was meant, made, and called to be a pastor. My life purpose was and is to awaken, open to, and Be LOVE together. So, I went to seminary to study and jumped in as best I could at newlife to become a pastor.
After years of trying to, working at, and asking to be a pastor at newlife, this year I realized it just wasn’t in the cards. For that, and other reasons, my wife, daughter, and I then left newlife with sorrow, anticipation, and expectation. By “expectation” I mean with no definitive plans I had some level of thought I’d “work” (probably not for money) as a pastor at some other church.
YET, that “plan” did not sit well with my soul … but neither did going back to newlife. Do you know what does bring me a Divine peace and joy? Teaching yoga and doing church on a small scale and regular basis with close friends. BIG props to Lisa for sweetly inviting me to this realization!
Here’s the thing, I was ALL in at newlife in my own unique way. I had dreams of leading one of its campuses. I asked about doing that. I worked toward doing that. I voiced my desire to pastor, preach, and teach quite a bit. I was varyingly angry, sad, and indifferent over NOT being able to be a pastor at newlife. It was a real death and trauma for me … YET, God has retold this story in the most AMAZING and delightful way. I have experienced resurrection HERE and NOW. I’m a yoga teacher. I get the honor of caring for beautiful people’s entire being (body, mind, and spirit) EVERY day … I LOVE it! … And really, when you think about it, it’s a story of pastoring retold in a new, modern, and Lang-oriented way.
I’m convinced this resurrection here and now, this retelling of everyone’s and ANY story is something God loves to do with each and every one of us (not to mention the WHOLE world). What is more, regardless of if this is literally true (and I really do think it is), I’ve found living as if it were has totally transformed my life and those of others I admire (or am close to) in the most AMAZING ways … could it for you too?
I leave you with these words from Jesus as translated by Eugene Peterson: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
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Grace and peace,