Friday, August 10, 2012

Becoming Aware

Some days I go to spend time with God and I think I am doing it more for His sake than for mine. I have this idea that God will be more gracious to me, more kind to me, more satiated if I just give Him my attention. It's usually on those days that I end up realizing that He never needs me. He doesn't need my flattery, my flighty attentions, my patronizing. And during those times I never walk away without the realization of how desperately, painfully, and deeply I need Him. You see, I was made to spend time with God. Each of us were. It doesn't look the same on any of us, but we were made for encounter with Jesus. From the very first man ever created to the very last man who will be born, we were made in the image of God with the purpose of walking with God in that perfect, unspoiled intimacy that Adam enjoyed with the Lord in the cool of the day.

Today I purposed to come up to our computer room and stay here with the Lord until I got some things settled in my heart. I've been wrestling over an issue in my mind, and I keep having all of these thoughts that are related to it that I know I can't carry any more. I was telling Chad the other day about how often I own thoughts in my head that I shouldn't be owning. I've heard so many times about how you can't help what you think, but you can always help what you do with the thoughts that land in your mind.

For example, one of my pet peeves is when people (and the Lord knows I do this a ton) use this sort of excuse for a sin pattern: "I'm just wired this way...I just am a depressed person...I just am more sensitive than most people...I just get worn out easier..." etc. Do I think we need to know our own personal limitations and have a keen awareness of what makes us fall apart? Of course. We need to own up to our faults, our failures, our unique temperaments so that we can work on what stinks...and then we need to do the hard work of asking the Lord to uproot the crud and leave the good. We need to be willing to put ourselves in the position of saying, "I'm not right. I'm in process. I'm not perfect yet. But I'm not willing to sit around and do nothing about this glaring issue in my life." I've never told someone that they have a booger in their nose and they regretfully respond, "Well I'm just a snotty person." People want to take care of their boogers. And junk in their teeth. Why aren't we just as eager to take care of the flaws in our inner person?

But back to my owning thoughts that aren't mine to own...So often the enemy-- who is called the father of LIES-- spits a lie at my feet, still steaming from its time macerating in his nasty belly, and I purposefully pick up the lie and think, "I must have dropped this." And soon I'm walking around holding this nasty lie and thinking it came off my person. But it didn't. It's not mine because I'm not the daughter of a liar. I'm the daughter of THE TRUTH.

You know, holding a lie is kind of like picking up a wasps' nest. It's a bad idea on multiple levels. First, it's a nest, full of furious wasps, and I'm carrying it like a baby. No matter how gentle I am with it, it's going to erupt all over me. And one lie, just like one nest, carries a billion potential injurers. A lie doesn't stay contained. It stings me all over. And if I don't get rid of that thing and RUN the opposite direction, I could end up a swollen, puffy, poisoned, potentially hospitalized mess of flesh for a while.

So anyway, I came up to this room today thinking I wasn't going to leave until I could walk of the room without the lie attached. I don't want it. I'm leaving it here. Usually I assume that when I'm believing a lie, or thinking about a lie, God is super far away from me. And I opened to Psalm 139. So I read it. And I was struck again at the nearness of God. Even when I'm believing/thinking/acting on a lie. He's close.

I've been wondering lately what the secret to intimacy with God is. Is it more discipline? More hunger? More trials? But in Psalm 139 I think I found the answer: AWARENESS. Awareness of God's presence, and the LOVE that emanates from Him to me.

I started writing out all of the verses from the chapter that talked about God's proximity to us. It's pretty staggering:
"O Lord, you have searched me and known me"
"[You] are intimately acquainted with all my ways"
"You have laid Your hand upon me"
"even there, Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me..."
"for You formed my inward parts, You woven me together in my mother's womb"
"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made"
"and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them."
"how precious are Your thoughts toward me O God! How vast is the sum of them, were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand"
"when I am awake, I am still with You"

It's hard to not want to be with someone who really wants to be with you. Someone who really just loves and adores you. And when I became aware today of God's nearness, despite my struggling mind, I suddenly felt peace. It doesn't matter to Him that I have this glaring issue, because He's the only one who can fix it anyhow. And He still wants to be with me. So the lie loses its hold.

That's the thing about walking WITH God. If I were walking with Kate Middleton (oh a girl can dream), I would walk differently than if I were walking by myself. I wouldn't look bored or insecure, I'd feel honored by her presence. That's just a girl. If I'm walking with God, and I have an awareness of Him, I'm not going to pick up the lie Satan throws. Because I won't think it's mine. It won't look or smell or seem like anything that should belong in the company of someone who walks besides a good, loving God.

The secret to living free from sin is living with Jesus. And Jesus isn't like a task master holding a bunch of rules over my head. He loves us. He loves me. I love this quote from Brennan Manning, and it came into my mind today while I was thinking about all of this, and trying to believe the verses in Psalm 139 applied to me, and that God really wants to be with me, and is truly acquainted with all of my ways:

"In the 48 years since I was first ambushed by Jesus in a little chapel in the mountains  of upper Pennsylvania, and in literally the thousands of hours of prayer and meditation, silence and solitude over those years I am now utterly convinced that on judgement day the Lord Jesus will ask each of us one question and only one question:
'Did you believe that I loved you?

That I desired you?

That I waited for you day after day?

That I longed to hear the sound of your voice?'

The real believers there will answer,'Yes Jesus, I believed in your love and I gladly shape my life in response to it. But many of us, who are so faithful in our ministry, our practice, our church going, are going to have to reply: "Well, frankly, no sir, I mean I never really believed it. I heard a lot of wonderful sermons and teachings about it. But I always thought that was a way of speaking. A kindly lie, some Christians' pious pattern.'
And there is the real difference between the real Christians, and the nominal ones.  
No one can measure like a believer the depths and intensity of God's love. And no one can measure like a believer the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self esteem, self hatred and despair that block God's way to us.
Do you see why it is so important to lay hold of this basic truth of our faith? Because you are only going to be as big as your own concept of God. Remember the line of the French philosopher Pascal, 'God made man in his own image, and man has returned the compliment.' 
We often make God in our own image: just as fussy, rude, judgemental, unloving and impatient as we are.  The God of so many Christians I meet is a god who is too small for me, because He is not the God of the Word, He is not the God revealed by Jesus Christ... who in this moment comes right to your seat and says,
'I have a word for you. I know your whole life story, I know every skeleton in your closet, I know every moment of sin, shame, degraded love that has darkened your past; right now I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, and your inconsistent discipleship..and my word to you is this, I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are."
When you're grumpy, unloving, bitter, angry, selfish, shamed by have just as much right to access God's presence as when you're feeling pious, successful at discipline, qualified for the Kingdom, decorated by good deeds and good thoughts.
I've always wondered why James 4:7 says to, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Why is the enemy so eager to leave if all I've done is just stand up to him in my puny flesh? The answer lies in the very next verse. "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you." Satan flees when we resist, because resistance towards him means we are pushing towards God- and God's response time must be pretty quick. After watching the Olympic track events the other night, Chad and I practiced getting down in the blocks and bouncing up to run as quickly as we could. (Yes, that's what we do in our free time.)  But maybe the Lord is kind of like those Olympic runners, who are constantly working on coming out of the blocks as quickly as possible so they can get to their goal. When we resist a lie, and we resist the father of lies, it's like that gun going off at the starting line of an Olympic race, and God's coming.