God’s presence and Authority
I have been thinking lately, and I think I need to say a couple things about the process of striving after faith.
Christ calls us to make disciples of the entire world, right? And Jesus is the way we do that, yes? And his love is the one we talk about, and not ourselves? Well. I think Christians need to make some changes.
When was a child, I was extremely aware of the presence of God. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. It simply was. As a child, and now as an adult, I often knew things about God before I had the words for them. I knew the Holy Spirit was a thing because I physically felt it. For a while, I wasn’t on good standing terms with Jesus, because I blamed him, and I felt that perceived rejection too. I only didn’t call myself a Christian for a week. The nausea got too intense, and I had to come back.
All these people, talking about all these very real Spiritual things that happen all the time, and my little child body getting sick just thinking about it. I can pull out the journal entries that talk about it. It will likely still have the same effect, to read about it.
Now, I don’t really understand how the Church does things any more. We separate things like Missions from our daily life, we separate them from the other churches in our areas that do them, we isolate ourselves in carefully crafted little niches of our faith, and we wait for God to come to us, instead of radically running after him. Now, God does come after us. But let us not forget, that crap requires some participation.
I have written for about half of my lifespan. Ten years. Writing. And what I have come to find out in all that time of writing is the “Reflection” is just a fancy word for the Holy Spirit trying to teach you something directly out of your pen. That should seem radical. It is.
If you want something, you pursue it. Christians are different in that we have to accept the gift of salvation. It takes a giant leap of faith at the get go, and then various degrees of continued certainty throughout the rest of it, which come from God.
Now, I’m not sure about you, but my faith has taken some work. That is a good thing. It should be that way. I’ve had to allow God to change my life in thousands of little ways, up until the point that if a person I met on this day last year came up and started talking to me today, they would most likely literally not recognize me. Why in God’s name would I A) Take that for granted or B) Be ashamed of it?
So much of my life in knowing God (as in, my entire lifespan pretty much) has been limited to what I can or cannot say about how awesome he is, largely by other humans that (no offense) do not often feel him nearly as much as I do. I love them to pieces, but they are wrong, and you don’t need to look it up in Scripture all the times, it just is. He is good. He is there. He is kind. He is perfect. I don’t need to listen sometimes when it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit. I’d much rather share, because I know God is good, and I can sometimes tell you just how good within a certain time frame on the spot. I’m not sure if there is a word for that, but I don’t think there should be. God is good. He is the great “I am”. “It is”. Shouldn’t the Holy Spirit moving or not moving be enough?
For so much of my life, I didn’t know that it was a good thing to pursue a direct relationship with Christ. I got pretty excited in high school Humanities when I learned about Martin Luther doing crazy crap to make that more of an expected reality, at least for some people. As the Body of Christ, people that believe in God have not always gotten it right, but God still has the Church pretty strong and growing stronger all over the globe. Why should I diminish what I know if it isn’t a translate-able thing, it’s a felt thing?
Going on study abroad, I wanted to choose Jesus. I had struggled with ego for my entire life. I wanted to leave, and I wanted to come back and be able to have the grace to make the changes I needed to make in my life. Yes, faith isn’t a means to change, per se. But Christ lives in me, and that stuff is enviable. How else do people come to salvation, so much of the time? It isn’t by listening to jargon. It is by seeing and feeling the awesome power of God, and deciding that maybe they would also like to have that working on their behalf. It is a choice. That shouldn’t be a source of shame, God designed it that way for a reason. He loved us. But not all love ever goes reciprocated. God only wanted to give us the opportunity to love him back, and he sent Jesus as a venue to make sure that happened. I don’t have to know jargon to know that Christ was/is/will be the missing piece. I feel it.
If you want conviction, you have to allow God to be felt in your life, just as much as you have to allow yourself to take necessary risks in the name of his Holy Spirit. He will guide you. He protects you. Remind me why you should be afraid, knowing that the infinite God of the Universe protects you always? Should you really be so scared?
No. Life is a gift. Do your best to enjoy it. God will fight for you if you simply ask. It was always that simple. “Ask and you shall receive” takes on a whole new meaning if you actually ask and you actually allow yourself to receive. His love is perfect.
I don’t need the words to talk about what I know is true. I just don’t. He can do it for me, and if he is in what I say, he will make that known. It may not be today. But his will is perfect, and it’s continuous. His will is life itself. It goes on. Time goes on. The time we see the world with was created especially for us; don’t forget. He spoke the world into existence. If he wanted, he could speak anything else also into existence. I don’t need to know words to know the love that transcends them. I know Jesus. It is enough.
“Missions” isn’t about travel. It is about cultivating an openness to God that transcends the cultural context you happen to be in, and making his love so large in your life (and correspondingly, your ego so small through faith that God will allow that to happen if you ask and yes, he will provide) that people have no good reason to distrust you. They know you come in peace, because your faith in that peace will allow them to feel it. You will be a calming, loving force in others’ lives. Should I have to have jargon for that? My faith comes from a perfect God. He takes on as many or as few words as he wants. This was never about me.
But I know that, and the only difference is that now is the right time for me to say it. He has done enough good things in my life that there is no good reason not to. That “just do it” sentiment alone is how I know. I will know if it isn’t the right time, because I will feel it. I will know if he isn’t in something that I choose because it won’t be quite right. I should not have any cause for inhibition after I pray and reflect, if my choices are truly from him. I should have peace when I say yes, and if not, then my heart rate will probably be a little spastic in terms of not having that peace if I don’t say no. I will have a physical reaction, because something won’t feel right. The anxiety I live with is anxiety yes, but it is also the screaming voice of the Holy Spirit for what isn’t good. So glad we’ve all decided to medicate and separate all the people that feel that what we are doing isn’t right. As long as we don’t talk to them, we will never have to know.
But I do love God. He is perfect in my life. I trust what he’s doing. I don’t have to be afraid. If I take up any margin of fear, that is my choice, and I will not neuter what I say based on the context, I will trust him to meet me there. He puts the overwhelming comfort/discomfort in my life for a reason, regardless of who believes in it. And it should be a given that that love comes from Christ.
I love God, and there is no reason to be worried about where he is taking me in my life, because he will drag me into it, regardless of how much panic I feel from trying to resist the goodness he is bringing into my life. It’s a “You’re doing it, let’s go” kind of thing. It will make me upset and cranky otherwise. Too much upset and cranky will make me choose bad choices. If I am choosing God first like I should, there will be peace over all that I do.
Distress is about not taking ownership for the ways God can move in your life, and believing he will not meet you exactly where you are at today. For that reason, I have seen that over time, my external need for things like medication and mood stabilizers and what have you directly correlates to whether or not I trust in the goodness I feel. The academic world can put its label on that, but they separated God out of the equation of true scholarship so long ago that they probably wouldn’t even recognize that the very practice of isolating something to discern what it is came from God who progressively divided the truth from the darkness since the beginning of time. Once you remove God from the equation, nothing is ever quite right. I may be learning about history in pretty much every discipline I study at school, in the form of theories and whatnot, but the shock and disappointment that scholars feel when they simply aren’t right because they have been separated from God is the same “Well duh” feeling I feel when I try to run from the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life. Y’all can take credit for that if you want. But I know that God holds my life, and anything short of his influence in my life is always going to come up short. It’s getting your priorities wrong.
As long as I know that God is my chief authority, I have no reason to be afraid in whatever I do. I know he will protect me. I feel it. I will imitate and blend in and trust in the people I get the same peace feeling from, because they will help me. I know that. I know that I can trust them. It is the same feeling. I may give people the benefit of the doubt when I can afford my faith to do it for me (#imperfection), but the same goodness is a wonderful lie detector in the absence of goodness. If I don’t trust you, there is a reason, and sometimes it is as simple as you not trusting yourself. I love all my friends and family, but if they are wrong, I am not just going to go along with it. I will be nice. I will listen. I will do all the things that a friend or family member does. But pitching a fit or becoming upset isn’t right. It is just screwed up priorities. I will pray and ask that God works in their lives directly, because I know he is capable. And I will accept the things I don’t know in favor of the things I know, which come from him.
If something is right, God wants for that to be known. A tree is known by its fruits, and you will know whether you were right in hindsight sometimes, because you will either sin or not sin, as reflected by the effect your actions have on others. “Missing the mark” is sin. If you are in any sort of relationship with any kind of human, platonic or romantic, with a stranger, friend, family member, or spouse, you need to be able to apologize and forgive, because those are the natural consequences when any of us miss the mark. We are simply wrong, and we simply need to own up for that. I trust God, and I know that I have some apologies to make in the coming months and years for things that I have done. I know I have been forgiven. But the simple act that I hurt another person should be enough for me to want to make that right.
If you believe in Christ, you should want to be blameless before him. That means righting the wrongs he has already forgiven, not by your own actions, but by allowing him to take the credit and for you to do what is right to make him be able to use you more and more in your life, as you grow and the Holy Spirit grows inside you. You should be afraid of that. If it is the same goodness that God first brought to you in faith, it will only be a bigger version of the same goodness, in a slightly more visible and celebratory way. What are you doing to stop God from working in your life? Maybe you should rethink that.
The moral of the story is that God’s love wins. He already won. Let it be simply him. He loves you more than you could ever imagine, and if he wants, he will use you to fight his battles whether or not you are aware of it. You don’t have to look to others to define his place in your life; he made it intentionally simple so that his love would be the ultimate authority, and if you believe in a Christ that lives, you should welcome that love as you welcome others’ place in it. You should have no place to hide your bigotry, racism, disrespect, willful ignorance, or discrimination, on the scale of just wounding one person, or crippling the entire world. You should have no right to assume that God cares more about you than he loves the people you were called to serve. If you allow it, God will work in your life. That is known, and it has been known over the course of human history. You don’t have to be afraid. He is with you.