Reflecting on life with God this morning, wondering not so much what God is like, but rather, what is living with God like? What is the experience of following God? Jesus said his food was to the will of his Father, and went on to say in John 17 that this was very life, to know God. Oddly, the first thing that comes to mind is the experience of God’s holiness, rather than his love. It’s a bit like saying ontology precedes ethics, that we are slapped up the side of the head by his very being before realizing that He loves us. It’s interesting that Jesus begins his announcement of the good news of the Kingdom with “Repent.” (Matthew 4:17) I know it means “turn around,” but in most biblical instances of repentance, there was a sort of emotional upheaval that went with the sudden flash of realization that for reasons perhaps inexplicable, when God comes into the room, I am revealed completely, and “sin” is just…there. Like Peter, like John, like Daniel, like Adam and Eve, I am terrified when the Holy walks in, because I am not fooled into thinking I, too, am Holy. I am very clear on my unholiness, and if I am going to walk in the Kingdom of the Heavens where holiness is the air that’s breathed, I realize intuitively that I am going to have to figure out how to turn around. As C.S. Lewis asserted in his description of Heaven in The Great Divorce, God’s Kingdom is a place unsuited to those not ready to be transformed into people who can stand the sharpness and glory of a world meant for the Holy.
So now life begins. Born again, Jesus said. “Are you born again?” people ask. How hard it is to hear those words with any of the strangeness that Nicodemus did. “Born again? What are you possibly talking about?” We let the words tumble out of our mouths easily, as if it’s like putting on a pair of pants in the morning. Simple, born again…say the prayer, you know. Truth is, the newborn is cute and cuddly and mostly helpless. The newborn is a rolling, crying, heavy sack of need. Left alone, they die. Simple. And I’m convinced that in the life of Jesus followers, it’s possible to be a new born for a long, long time.
I think I’ve been there.
Life is a metabolizing process, one thing drawing energy from another. We pray things like, “Give me strength.” Psalm 29 says He gives strength to His people. Isaiah 40 says he gives strenth to the weary and power to the weak. Timothy describes God as having given us “a spirit of power and love and self-discipline.” Who wouldn’t want to have that kind of spirit, that would yield an experience commiserate to those characteristics? Question is, do we? Not should we, but do we experience that Spirit in a way that yields what Paul and Jesus says it will? Rivers of living water? Love that is patient, kind, doesn’t seek it’s own, isn’t puffed up? Constantly being reminded in our inner beings of what Jesus taught, as Jesus promised the disciples as a result of the arrival of the Holy Spirit?
I keep reading Jesus saying “O you men of little faith.” It’s funny, really. I used to see it as accusation…now it strikes me that there’s a gleam in his eye when he says it. Bemused, maybe? I read Mark 6, the story of Jesus walking on the water after John the Baptist’s death and the feeding of the five thousand. Mark says the disciples were astonished on seeing Jesus walking on the water, because they had not understood the feeding of the five thousand–their hearts were hardened.
I get the feeling there’s a lot I don’t understand.
…holy, holy, holy…