Ministry, Thoughts

Echo or voice

This is a story of imperfection. Or rather, a story of perfecting what is yet imperfect. Of a bumpy road that leads to a golden sky. These past 1,5 years I felt I had not much to say that was worth writing about, apart from factual updates on the many (exciting) things that were happening. This may be changing in the near future, I don’t know yet.

What do I mean by ‘not much to say’? I have written dozens of pages of ‘talk’ on my website, Facebook and in newsletters. I have talked for hours with so many people. I have preached many times about things that I believe in. But there is a difference in echoing and being a voice.

I have a quote hanging in front of my desk that reads,

You can choose to be an echo now or go low and be hidden for 10, 20 years and emerge and be a voice.

Really having something to say only comes through experience, through actually wrestling with life and Truth. Through the character building that happens when pursuing grandiose dreams while persevering in the mundane daily life, which after a while seems so much more real than the great dreams you were promised and hoping to achieve.

Somewhere in those processes in these past years, after I had been on five continents for extended periods of time, been at some of the best places to grow in prayer and loving God, seen many miracles and healings and heard great stories, my heart had become disappointed. All these great stories, great promises, yet another great leader or plan – how much does it really change anything? Relieve the deep suffering of the thousands that I have seen and met and lived with? Where are the fulfillments of the promises and prophecies given for yet another year that will fly by just like the previous ones, seemingly with a will and life of it’s own, regardless of what is prophesied? How much does prayer really matter? What really has happened that matters in the thirty years of my life? And that’s why I feel I have not had much to say lately.

My four years with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City were life changing. They altered, strengthened and expanded the foundations of what I believe and live for. I have received so many prophetic words just in that first year that I came there that with margins at 1 centimeter and font size 9 it still fills over 20 pages. And lots of it was good stuff, confirming several previous similar words given in that same year.

I got to travel more and more and my heart was enlarged. Compassion has grown for the poor, the vulnerable, the voiceless. I have got more training in so many areas, from theology, worship leading and prayer to disaster relief work, trauma counseling, driving trucks and buses and surviving in various climates. How much I learned these years! How much I started loving God and people around me and myself more. But at the end of it, when I landed in the Netherlands in the Summer of 2010, I was struggling.

Can I explain all the reasons why? Probably not. Reading back my journals from 2010 helped a bit to understand what was happening. I got some words that God was once again going to put me in some spiritual desert or wilderness. And as we know from Hosea, He often does that because He wants to talk and do deep things in our heart. Take out all the dirt and self-preservation and everything that we tried to build in our own strength and wisdom to place our foundation even more on the real Rock. He loves me to much to let me try to live life with all these lies and disappointments in my heart and is not afraid of some open heart surgery to get it right.

Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.

When distractions are removed and you just sit in front of a white wall with nothing to run to, no escape, then certain things start coming to the surface. That first period of living in Utrecht in the Netherlands I felt daily like I was barely surviving. Just clinging to whatever ray of hope and life would come and relieve my heart for a minute, or an hour, or sometimes a few days. It seemed there was no one around to be with that understood me. Everything I used to do daily for years suddenly was gone. People were gone. Regular patterns were gone. Stuff I was good at I was not involved in anymore and what I had to do was challenging and stretching me, without finding much comfort to strengthen me. I had no accomplishments of myself anymore to lean on.

Slowly I started to go to other false comforts. I knew they would not satisfy. But I remember desperately begging God to bring some satisfaction to my heart. And then, after a while, that I told Him: I know theoretically that You will satisfy one day if only I wait on You. But I have no strength left and I am going to use these pacifiers that are not good for my soul. Unhealthy food, movies that promote things that He hates etc. I started compromising principles I believed in but that take effort to walk them out. And He let me. After all, He gave me a free will.

But as I closed off a part of my heart for Him and often failed badly in living the way I want to live something beautiful happened. On the one end, I came to one of the low points in my life, where I felt everything that I ever was leaning on was stripped away and I was left with nothing. No strength, no will power to follow God and do what is right. No active awareness of faith even, although I knew somehow that my struggle didn’t mean that the truths I believe in were not right anymore, so I kept sharing and praying and preaching if I had to. But my heart felt like it was bleeding and dead inside. One day I realized I didn’t really know anything anymore that I believed in. My heart had become very skeptical and nothing truly inspired it anymore. That was a low point.

The beauty in that low point was that after all wood, hay and stubble had been burned, one little nugget of gold remained: somehow I knew beyond reasoning that Abba loved me so much as I was standing there in the midst of the ashes of my life and nice outside veneer that I kept up until I would know where I would end up. That one core truth and awareness had proven to be the only thing that was not shaken, the only thing that I now knew absolutely sure, even if I would fail everything and the whole earth were to be destroyed.

He had cleared out most of what I had build on the foundation of my life and from there started building again. It went quick, sometimes one reminder about something He had said about me years ago was enough to put up a whole prefab wall or other part of the building of my life again. After all, we had a history together. But this time my house stands better, more grounded, more right.

Now, after 1,5 years, I’m still not there yet. My prayer life and walk with Him is still much weaker than I would want it to be. But how I see His perfect power work much more and clearer through my imperfections! In all my struggles with hopelessness and oppressive feelings, control, pride, lust, using leadership to serve instead of to manipulate, and many other areas that some may never notice but that I can see, He smiles at me and says, ‘I’ll get you there. I’m a good Leader!’

I see things moving again when I pray. I believe again that not everything will remain the same. I am rereading page after page in my journals and document where I store all prophecies that I get and all I see is overwhelming evidence that great things have happened over the past years.  It shows His amazing leadership in so many details. It makes me believe again that greater things have yet to come and will happen in response to prayer and walking in love and obedience with God.

I felt this would be good to share at the end of this period in the Netherlands, as I’m getting ready to move to Italy. Many look at me and see a happy guy that encourages others. Someone who is strong, even though they obviously know that I’m not perfect. I want you to know that the only reason – literally – that I am alive is because my heavenly Dad believes in me. And He believes in me not because of me but because He believes that He is a good Leader who will get me there. He didn’t allow me to kill myself about a decade ago when for years I had lost all hope. He has kept me and led me well through these years. He chose to invest deeply in me, to strip me again of all props and to build me up from the ground. And He will perfect my imperfections by His own good leadership.

A new, deeper story is growing in me. I have echoed many good stories from others over the past years, as I knew that would be helpful to others I get to serve. Slowly these stories get mingled with stories of my own. Truths from the Bible are becoming truths that I know by experience. One day you will hear a voice, clear and with strength, because I have a message that has grown and matured inside over the years.

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3 Responses to “Echo or voice”

  1. On January 26, 2012 at 00:27 Maranda Gomes responded with... #

    Johan, thanks for sharing your heart. This was by far the most worthwhile thing I’ve read in a long time. Glad to hear that your voice is being born!

    • On January 26, 2012 at 16:42 johan responded with... #

      Thanks for the encouragement, Maranda! That was also by far the most vulnerable I’ve felt in a long time after posting a blog :)

  2. On March 29, 2012 at 13:19 Abhisek Rai responded with... #

    So true. Yes, i think, Christ is always there to strengthen us, refresh us, in our journey to wholeheartedness and fullness.