I have been a Christian since I was nine. I have been through many different stages, but I first knew Jesus as my Lord and Savior when I went forward at camp that year. I don’t remember anything other than it was a service and I went up at the alter call, but I do remember that I felt different.
My first visit inside the doors of a church happened pre-birth. We were there for church, prayer meetings, Sunday school, potlucks, ice cream socials, business meetings, and, well, everything. I grew up in the church; and, in prayer this morning, I was really challenged thinking about this life experience. Some of the constant religious doctrinal drone worked against itself. Instead of relationship, it created what has been labeled for me, “spiritual white noise”. Much of what I should have clung to, I could not hear anymore. It is like visiting a friend’s house when all of their children are speaking at once, and no one notices…or, it is like visiting my house when all of our dogs are barking and we don’t notice. Valuable information is just lost into white noise.
This morning I was sitting on the concrete patio with the sun on my face. God, figuratively, kept holding up my face up to Him, and I could not look away. I realized that much of what has stuck, the essentials of the faith, I got the hard way. I have recreated the wheel of relationship with Christ because I (my prideful responsibility) could not separate valuable information from rhetoric.
The truth is that we all have to recreate this wheel to some degree. We all need to freely understand what we are looking at. Jesus wants for us to know what we are doing when we enter into His family. Christianity is the hard way, not the easy way to live. Some people enter into it with head knowledge and no faith in its transcendence. In other words, we understand the words, but we do not believe that it actually crosses into our reality. It is a distant God with distant thoughts and distant love. Some people are very aware of spirituality but the have no knowledge of God. It is the emotive experience that drives them, but not its relevance to anyone before them.
I have been both. I have been arrogant enough to think that God would leave me alone, even if I was acting out my will in His name. I have also been arrogant enough to think that my feelings dictated His actions. I have been confused about spiritual issues for much of my life.
Meanwhile, while widdling this giant wheel of mine. The struggle most relevant to me has always been love. I have been very confused about God’s love. I was indoctrinated with songs and gold star scripture verses, but I never really understood the love of Christ. My most effective strategy has been letting God teach me about His love, first hand. I understand now that He is the one who wanted to show it to me all along. I just had to ask.
Think of a fish tank, a big one. I can be a bottom feeder and live my life stuck to the side of the glass eating mold and being swatted in the head by my swimming friends, or I can glide effortlessly in the entirety of the tank. I can experience the whole world that is at my disposal. I have all that I need to sustain me while floating in my own underwater world. That is what this love is like. It is closer than my breath. It is around me and through me; I swim in it and dive in its depths. Everything that I am, it is. I am not a bottom feeder with my back to the action. I belong to Him, surrounded by Him; He is present.
I have been asking lots of questions in prayer. You don’t have to grow up in the church to experience this “spiritual white noise”. It is a part of many experiences. When the big theological words get thrown around, a lot of that becomes just spiritual white noise. It must be said that although this is my perceived experience, it is not necessarily God’s reality. The name that God gave to Moses was, “I, I am.” Even back then, He was reassuring people of His presence. This morning He held me there, in front of Him telling me how present He is in my life. His love might have become the backdrop at times in my life (my perception), but He shows me that He is and was (I am) invasively and aggressively present. His love is the foreground (reality), whether I understand it or not. I am swimming inside of this picture that tells of His love.
Lord, thank you for your unfailing love. Show it to us today in specific and clear ways. Surprise us and let us delight in this present love.