by Fred Pruitt
“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you …” (Gal 4:19)
I began this current phase of my life in 2001, when I started sending out to friends these writings which have now become this blog. This phase followed after a decade (the 90s) of mostly silence, both within and without me, regarding the things of the Spirit. The details are not important that brought on that near silence, except to echo the common experience of I’m sure thousands of God’s people, who had placed all their hope and faith in a “ministry – leader – doctrine – church – fellowship – authority – healing,” etc., only to find it crumbling under our feet and fraught with conflict and pain, so much so that we had to find a place in the “wilderness” to lick our wounds and reconsider all these things.
The rip in the fabric (in 1988 when we left some folks with whom we had been in ministry), brought with it to me a double-dose of self-condemnation, asking myself how could I have let that happen – again?
(Before I say another word, let me interject this: this is not written to point any fingers at anyone else, as if to point out someone else’s error or abuse, etc. Any charge I might lay at the feet of others I am guilty of worse, so let us lay the “blame” gauntlet aside, as having no weight here.)
The reason I said “again,” is that the same thing had happened before, in 1980. We had to leave people we had been with for quite a few years, and after that experience we also had a time of wound-licking and nursing hurts we felt had been inflicted on us. But after a while we let it go, the first and main reason being that I had never doubted the fact that the Spirit had specifically told us to go there and be with those folks, and then some years later He had in the same way told us to leave and go back to our home town. I was very puzzled as to why the Lord would do that, and confused about a lot of other things as well.
But that time was cut short, also the Lord’s timing, because we ran into Norman Grubb. It was the fall of 1980. We had an afternoon with him and it changed our lives forever. It wasn’t because we were with a funny old man hard of hearing and hard to understand (he was both), and fell in love with him, (though we did), but because we left there as changed as the day I knew I was born again. Only the change this time, was an entire reorientation of my inner spirit-sight, from outer to inner. From outer God to inner God. From outer Christ to inner Christ. From outer substance (which we seek for our daily needs) to inner substance, out of which everything comes. The change began with one phrase from Norman (after a boring litany from me of all my woes and condemnations), who responded to my expressed need for a “minister above me,” by exclaiming, “You don’t need any man to teach you, you have The Teacher in you!”
Now, it didn’t happen in an instant, but more and more as we reflected while driving nearly an hour back to our home, we really began to “see.” See what? The first inkling for me was to realize, (you would think I would have known this already), that there was a well of Living Water in me that came up of itself and was continuously flowing, that I didn’t have to “pump up” by whatever method.
As a charismatic Christian, I had known that I was “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit, but my understanding and consciousness was dim in my immaturity, and the “filling” seemed an on-again off-again thing, entirely dependent on my actions, attitudes, thoughts, etc. To get it to “work,” I had to do stuff – pray, praise, read the Bible, this and that. If I didn’t do the “stuff” – chances are the Spirit (in my thinking at the time) would not flow. I knew He was the power, love, wisdom, etc., dimly, but from my perspective, it was ENTIRELY up to me to make it work, by my dedication, study, efforts and such. I could only be confident in facing the day if I was “prayed up.” Even that, however, I had to finally admit, really didn’t work either. Prayed up or not, condemnation and lack for a time was all I could see.
That was the consciousness that I was living when we met Norman that afternoon. So, it was a complete and total shift in my understanding and perception, that began to develop into a new consciousness as we drove away from Kennesaw that day. I did not yet see the union, but I saw where Life came from, where everything came from. And I saw for the first time I didn’t have to have a pep rally to get the Spirit to “come down” and do His stuff. Instead, He was of Himself welling up from within me, and my life was not lived by my instigating God by my activities into actions of this or that sort, but it was instead God in me instigating MY life from within. To use a hackneyed term, I had a total paradigm shift, and became unable to think in that old way again, and never again since.
And that made all that pain and hurt recede when I began to see EVERYTHING in the light of the love of God, which we more and more saw was in and through and permeating all things, even things that were in themselves evil and reaped the consequences of evil, but nevertheless worked the perfect good purposes of God, “to save much people alive.” (Gen 50:20).
There followed a period of euphoria and peace, when we began to know and experience through faith the inner truth of Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
I began writing immediately, first letters to friends, and then as we became involved in Union Life, we published a little pamphlet-magazine called “ACT” (Action in Christ Today), writing articles on union and related subjects, and distributing it first among our large number of friends in the Episcopal Cursillo movement in north Georgia, and to all the ULers we knew all over the US. People began asking me to speak at conferences here and there, and by 1985 I was back in full-time “ministry,” working with others to edit and publish another larger Christian magazine, and traveling quite a bit throughout the United States on teaching/sharing trips with Brian Coatney, very similar to my travels with John Bunting in these days.
Now here I was – “the teacher” – the “authority” – and I was giving it all I had! I knew the “message” and the words of the message and I believed them as much as I could, but truth be told, I was still terribly unsettled within.
I have listened a time or two to tapes made of my talks back then. And for the most part, (depending on the phase I was in), the things I said then I still say today. In very much the same wording. And I believed!
But I also remembered the inner anguish I was in at the time. After that period of euphoria in the beginning of my union “experience,” terrible condemnations came roaring back in. I at least had the “ammunition” against them that I did not have before I saw myself one with Christ, but still, ups and downs were the norm for me for a long time. One day up and joyfully confident, another day down in a spiral brought on by some challenging “thought, word or deed.” And the star of the show, the focus of the attention, was, of course, Me! That is exactly what condemnations are about – me!
But that dis-ease eventually made us dissatisfied with where we were, and we moved on again. Which brings me back to the second paragraph above, where I am “asking myself how could I have let that happen – again?”
We had taken our ball and gone home. I wanted to be alone. Hurt again! Wounded again! Do we “blame” again? Yes, we did for a time. Frankly, we ran away. Again, I didn’t know what to do. I was doubtful of myself, and of God. How could God do that to us again? How could I have fallen for “trusting man” again, when I thought I had been trusting God? But I got caught out, again intertwined with another “authority” outside me, doubting myself and because of that doubt, I was “intimidated” by that outer authority.
Whose fault was it?
In the beginning of that time, which started in 1988, I started reading The New Man, by Thomas Merton. I came across this passage in the beginning of the book:
“Life and death are at war within us. As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die. Even though we may not be even slightly aware of it, this battle of life & death goes on in us inexorably and without mercy. If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in our flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an ‘agonia’ not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. In this most terrible of all wars, fought on the brink of infinite despair, we come gradually to realize that life is more than the reward for him who correctly guesses a secret and spiritual ‘answer’ to which he smilingly remains committed. This is more than a matter of ‘finding peace of mind,’ or ‘settling religious problems.’
And with that Merton passage at the entrance, I walked into a ten-year long “land of forgetfulness.”
I just forgot everything. The Lord took it away – I didn’t realize it at the time (there were some who said it was Satan) – but He took away all the words, the conceptual knowledge of the truth, the “jargon” of our little group – all out the window. People didn’t talk like that “out in the wide world.” Nobody cared what Romans 6, 7 and 8 said. Nobody worried about whether they were “believing right,” or even if they were “in sin” or “not in sin.” All those “issues” that had swirled around in me for the previous 15 years went out the window.
Norman had said, more than once or twice in my presence, “just forget God and live.” He meant it in the spirit of Augustine’s “love God and do what you like,” which is anathema to a law-bound self-effort person, but is really the “goal” of union life (life in union with Christ), the reason being that in union with Christ, we “like what God likes,” and “will what God wills,” because we are not two, but one, one in will, and one in ultimate desire. So that’s what I decided to do: forget God and live.
This second period of what seemed like dealing with and recovering from the same thing, was not cut short this time, as the first had been. It was a relatively short time of “suffering” in 1980 and 81 that bridged that gap into union life, which then took over and all that trouble was forgotten for a time. But this time, beginning in 1989 or so, it went to a deeper depth, a greater doubt, because this time I began to earnestly question that God had put us through that, and began to be tempted strongly that there was something wrong with me, or this wouldn’t be happening again. Why did I have to learn the same lesson again? What’s wrong with me?
And anyone can readily see, my thoughts and temptations were not “union” thoughts, but as “separated” as they could be.
End Part One