I hesitate to share this. But if I identify as a Christian before the world, I ought to be transparent with my own story.
I spend a lot of my blog effort on workaday apologetics and one woman’s understanding of the application of Christian evangelical doctrine. But if I am not careful, my account of the Christian experience could become something dispassionate, held at arm’s length, and useful to no one.
Here is something different. It is my best attempt to describe one small passage in a relationship with God. I can confirm to you that He really is the still small voice amid the cacophony of life on earth and the distracting roar visible and invisible.
We foolishly try to translate the spiritual to the material with 1 to 1 correspondence, such as in ghost stories, but it is clumsy at best. I suspect it will be difficult to understand what I relate as I have understood it, but I hope I can tell you something real which doesn’t come across as only me relating my feelings. Personal experiences which happen in our heads are somewhat beyond words, and that must necessarily be true here. But I do not intend to tell you about my feelings.
A few years ago, I did something I don’t dare to do often. I asked him a direct and open-ended question. “Of all these plans we/I have for good things to do, which one? Which ministry should we throw our effort into? Which big plans should we pursue? We can’t do it all, so which ones do we sacrifice? What would you have me do?” And I really wanted His answer, not mine, for a change.
And he clearly said to me: “Love me.”
It wasn’t anything remotely like any answer I was expecting. The answer came from outside of me and made itself known in my mind.
The full weight of the answer will be evident to many believers. When Jesus asked us to love Him and His Father, he also taught that the result of that love would be humility, sacrifice, obedience, and active love toward our fellowmen. That result flows supernaturally from the true source of intentionally and actively loving Him. Love for Him is the true act.
I’m a slow learner. In spite of his earlier conversation with me, I went on imagining myself an indispensable cog in Important Business.
Recently, I had the flu. I recognized the flu by its trademark impact on my mind. It was waaay too much trouble to think very hard about anything. Even more unusual for me, I did not much care about anything either.
I had no interest in food. After a few days, I realized that my body, normally a hypersensitive rollercoaster of alarming sensations, seemed to relax. (I must remember to try that fasting thing.) I lay almost comfortably content. My body felt calm; my mind was peaceful.
I will try to describe how God the Creator of the Universe, my closest Friend, seamlessly stepped through the barricades I had thrown up high against intrusion from anything but self. He waited his opportunity, and simply became present. But He had something to say.
He had things to tell me. And what He had to say was the same as who He was. Becoming aware of His intimate presence was understanding what he wanted me to know.
Illness can be an excellent focuser. All the striving just became too much for me. The non-essentials put aside and cleared away, you can see more clearly. As I floated on the surface, sick, I realized that all the stuff could wait.
This caused, or allowed me, to step back from my frenetic wheel-spinning and to look at the bigger picture. You might be thinking: “Well, duh.” Yes, I knew all this stuff but the evidence all seemed to prove my indispensability.
But I am not really essential to anything. Keeping all the plates spinning is too much. I encouraged myself to lose my grip on all that I have to control. Let go of all the nonessential, the totally vital things I must do or the world is ruined. There is a chance here for humility.
Why? Because my part is to do my little bit, but God really has the grip and the control. Just do the next right thing, step by step, and God will have it all in His hands. I don’t need to know everything.
It’s not ME accomplishing the great things.
For my part, doing the essentials is enough. If all I can do is nothing, everything will still get done. So if I do my little bit, and discern my little bit well, I will be being faithful. I want to do simply the right thing. Which is whatever He wants.
Whatever you want me to do, that is what I am ready to do. I don’t want to bother with what I want plus what you want. Just tell me in your way, what you want from me, and that is what I will gladly do.
Be conscious and mindful about now, keep close and connected with Him. And just do the next thing. Ask him what the next thing is, or do the next thing that has presented itself. Take your time. There’s no panic. Do it, quietly, don’t hurry. He is guiding and He is accomplishing. Do the obviously right thing by Me without projecting the result and weighing whether you think it’s worth it.
A few days later, we were with dear friends with whom we’ve been meeting for Bible study for several years. As we discussed the passage, our friend Rob asked a question which I don’t even remember. Suddenly I began processing my recent experience in quick-time.
I realized with almost with a start what God had been saying. It was simple yet awesome.
He is here by me. I mean really here, in my life, in me, a Someone not to be dismissed and ignored. He is there. As in: I’ve been standing here all this time. Now you can see me!
And that place I had arrived, courtesy of the flu: He’s been waiting for me to get here, with everlasting patience; he would have waited as long as it took for me to get around to waking up.
It’s interesting to note that The Almighty God of the Universe, the Creator of all things visible and invisible, the Alpha and Omega…whom unbelievers label an avenger, a genocidal destroyer, a petty accountant of our sins…actually interacts with us with what seems like respect and humility. He can wait for me. He gave us our own free will and knows the danger, yet waits on our slow-witted epiphanies.
He seeks us out. Like “The Hound of Heaven” referenced by Stott*, he pursues us relentlessly. But he pursues less like a hunter and more like a spurned yet hopeful suitor. We would rarely seek Him.
There is a private place where it’s only He and I. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t go to that quiet place often enough. But that has to change this time.
* Why I Am a Christian by John Stott, chapter 1