pastor craig robertson

Craig Robertson

A Scenic View of a Crag
by Craig Robertson

My parents aptly named me Craig.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that Craig is a derivation from the Celtic word “Crag” which means “steep and rugged rock.”  Not rugged as in handsome (I wish) but jagged and rough.  Did you ever notice how God used people’s names in the Bible to characterize the person they would become?  I think it’s one of God’s little jokes or pleasures in life.

I grew up long ago in a land far away called San Jose, California.  When I was seven years old I prayed to ask Jesus into my heart on the lap of a lady I had never met who was visiting my mom.  Without any training or adult prompting I led several friends to Christ in the early years of my childhood and contemplated what God might want to do with my life.  You see as a child I was more smooth and rounded in the hands of God; the steep and rugged was to come later.  It probably started when my precious grandfather died when I was eight and my parents divorced when I was nine.  Being a latchkey kid and the oldest son (I have one younger sister) ingrains a certain self-reliance and independence that can become a defiant wall of stone against God.

You could see this independence in my hobbies and sports.  I tend to like my sports to be extreme with a hint of danger.  As a kid I would spend two weeks every summer with my dad backpacking and rock climbing in the high Sierras.  Later I took up cycling in the coastal mountains and bike touring on the West coast.  My favorite thing was to cycle up several thousand feet and then catch a draft behind car going down a mountain highway.  I even managed to pass one once at 50mph.  You could add to my list of extreme sports snow skiing in the Sierras, surfing in the Pacific, and car racing at Thunder Hill racetrack.

By the time I was near the end of my college education I had truly become a crag; a rising rugged rock defiant and independent of God.  There was no way I wanted to surrender my life to Christ because I didn’t trust what he might want from me, like going to Africa as a missionary.  Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve got to serve somebody, it might be the Lord, it might be the devil, but you’ve got to serve somebody.”  Not me, I would serve no one but myself.  By the mercy of God He let the forces of nature, the consequences of my sin and pride which I cannot share in this family-rated newsletter, come against me and this crag crumbled.  I was deceived in thinking I was a mountain that could stand on its own. A crag is not the mountain itself and can only stand when it is anchored to God’s mountain.  I vowed to the Lord that I would serve and follow Him alone.  I did not realize that it was Wisconsin, not Africa, that He had in mind.

Soon afterward I met Gill, my wife, in the college ministry at church.  Gill was visiting from England and . . . . . . . it’s a long story.  I finished college and worked for seven years in Silicon Valley in electronic companies as a Product Engineer.  God had so changed my heart that I found myself leading people to Christ again and holding Bible studies at work.  Gill and I also started a Young Marrieds ministry in our church.  We were making lots of money and things were going smooooth.  Then it happened.  God took me up on my vow to follow Him wherever He would take me.  It started with restlessness in my soul that couldn’t be satisfied by life.  Trying to avoid God’s calling into full time ministry I tried pursuing other careers.  As the restlessness grew I asked God what He wanted from me.  When I asked, a strange thing would happen.  I would find myself weeping for the lost that did not know Jesus.  It didn’t matter where I was, even if it was in California commute traffic, which is a true test of calling to ministry.  Not wanting to give up a good thing, which was lay-ministry and money, I stopped asking God.  But He kept after me.  Finally, as a last effort of defiance I literally shook my fist at God and asked, “What do you want from me?”  Again I ended up weeping for the spiritually lost.  Again I had to surrender my pride and defiance to God and say, “OK God, I’ll follow you.”

Gill and I saved up a little money, sold our cars, and in 1989 we headed out to Trinity Seminary in Illinois without jobs or a place to live.  God provided for us during this time in amazing ways.  We had put off having children longer than we wanted because of seminary and asked God if He could please let us have our first child when I graduated. In 1992 Selina was born in the last semester of my last year, and we moved to Wisconsin to start a new church for the spiritually lost in Madison with Matt and Sue.

I came with a heart full of passion to help people find their way to Christ and a head full of knowledge about God and ministry.  But God knew something – I wasn’t useful to him yet.  As a team of church plant-assessors summarized it during seminary, “Craig is a diamond in the rough.”  My Father in heaven wanted to take away a faulty image I had of myself and give me His own.  He also wanted to give me a gift of humility because I carried too much pride on the inside.  Saint John of the Cross described the gift as a “Dark night of the soul.”  For me it wasn’t a night but a two-year journey where it felt as if God had withdrawn from me. I was left to wrestle with my faith and my utter dependence on God.  It was through this breaking of self that I experienced how great my Father’s love is for me.  About this time our son Joel was born right here in Madison.

Though I had to give up quite a few of my extreme sports when I left California I have discovered other outdoor activities that bring me great joy.  Gill and I love to cycle in the surrounding area and take in the beautiful countryside.  I have also tried cross-country skiing and canoeing a couple of times.  I would like to do more of all three so if you know of “must see and experience places” for any of these please let me know.  I have discovered that when I’m living for Jesus that I’m experiencing an extreme life in the spirit and I wouldn’t trade my extreme life for any extreme sport.

Lately, I have been finding my passion and longing for Jesus has been growing.  It is my prayer that I when I die that I can be close to the throne of Christ in heaven and worship Him, even if it means that I am a stone stuck in the bottom of the sole of my King!