Disorientation, A Gift?

Theologian Walter Brueggemann has written much on the Psalms. He places Psalms into three broad categories: Psalms of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. Brueggemann argues that we cannot and will not move onto new orientation (call it a paradigm shift, growth, what you will) unless we are first disoriented from a familiar and comfortable current orientation.

Sounds pleasant, huh?

An Uninvited Expereince
I can clearly look back over my adult life and identify seasons where God either allowed or flat out disrupted my life. In fact, in some ways, God is a the great Disruptor (consider Babel, for example, or Joseph’s life). There are many who will not have a category for that. “God disrupt my life? But he is our peace!” Well, yes he is. But peace is a Person, not merely an experience or feeling. We can actually create false sources of pseudo-peace in our life that limits us from knowing Peace.

We are profoundly skilled at self-illusion. We need to be dis-illusioned at times. God, in his great love and wisdom, will allow any variety of crisis in our lives to disrupt unhealthy behavior, perspectives, and lifestyles. To leave us as is would be exceptionally unloving. So he disrupts us. He does not intend to leave us there.

We play a part in the reorientation process.

I can either resist this disorientation and make every effort to manage and strategize how to get my life back into “order.” Or, I can cast myself upon God, repent of my unhealthy ways as he reveals them to me, and wait on him to heal me when and how he wants. The operative response is to not  scramble for “how” to fix this. The wiser response is to move toward Jesus and ask him to heal/teach/guide us. It is laced with uncertainty and mystery. But we do know this for sure: no matter how dark it gets, our God is with us and for us and will, in time, lead us forward.

Here is the kicker question: Do I want a familiar, comfortable orientation or do I want to know God? That question makes me squirm just writing it. Yet, it is the core question I must face.

In order for me to go deeper into communion with God, I must be transformed and transformation requires change. Change is disorienting.

“Normal” Season of Disorientation
Those of us who live cross-cultural lives experience a steady dose of disorientation. We live in a state of constant transition – people come and go, our roles change, our context changes, security concerns rise and fall. Change is the constant and that is disorienting to a point. One way we can leverage this is to allow our hearts to be soft toward the Spirit’s presence and voice so as to follow him where he leads. It may be unfamiliar, but he knows the way.

“In your great love revive me, so I may alertly obey your every word.”                        Psalm 119:88 (MSG)

The Shepherd’s Role
I engage people in various levels of disorientation (i.e. transition, loss, change, etc.) all the time. Sometimes it is self-inflicted. Sometimes it happens to them at no cause of their own. My role as a shepherd MUST NOT be to help them “fix it” (i.e. self-manage life) but rather encourage them to move toward Jesus. Jesus is who they need. Jesus’ greatest desire is deeper communion. Usually our greatest desire is to fix this mess and fast. Shepherds guide sheep to Jesus.

Yes, disorientation, as unpleasant as it is, is a gift. Our God is good and wise, his ways are not ours.

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2 Responses to Disorientation, A Gift?

  1. Victoria Coyne says:

    Thanks for your thoughts/comments. Many years ago, as a new therapist, I assumed that my role would be to help people gain freedom from the pain that engulfed them and worked to that end. Then, about 2 or 3 years in, it occurred to me that if God uses the pain (disorientation) in my life to teach/grow/challenge me, doesn’t it make sense that he would do that in the lives of my clients. That started a shift in perspective for me. Now, instead of trying to move the client from the pain immediately, we work to know how God is working through the pain (disorientation). It has changed the way I sit with people.


    • Scott S says:

      Victoria Thank you for sharing from your experience – it is most encouraging. I love how you describe the manner in which you sit with people – moving from a posture of seeking to move from pain toward a posture of moving toward God amidst the pain. God has taught you much in the midst of your own pain. Every time I am with you I sense the deepening of your own soul! Much Love to You SS


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