‘The importance of a devotional life – listening for God’
I am empty. I am lost. I am at a loss.
Not words you expect to hear from someone who calls her blog Blissphil. But there you have it.
As I went to bed last night I recognised within myself a weary and empty spirit. I recognised that I am not in a blissphil place and as I sought to find a solution to this malaise I found myself scouting my brain for people who could help lift me up from this place. I kinda prayed for God to guide me to someone who would understand my situation and who could offer me some words of wisdom to encourage me … I don’t want pity, I want revelation, I want wisdom, I want to understand and I thought ‘someone else’ could help me.
As I prayed those words I was reminded of the scripture that was shared in church yesterday, the story of Jesus’s temptation from Luke 4. Luke’s account of Jesus’s wilderness journey speaks of the temptations in detail. During his 40 days in the desert Jesus finds himself hungry, so satan offers him bread, miraculously transformed from stone. Jesus is alone, so satan shows him the kingdoms of the world and promises they can be his, all the company he can keep. Jesus is weak and perhaps doubting, so satan invites him to test God by encouraging him to throw himself from a high point so that God and the angels would catch him.
In all his responses Jesus remains resolute; he strengthens his responses with quotes from scripture. ‘Man does not live on bread alone’, ‘Worship the Lord and serve him only’, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’. As I meditated on my disappointment, my disillusionment, my alone’ness, my doubt about my place and purpose here, I remembered these words. Looking for an easy way out of present circumstances is no more than a giving in to temptation. Expecting someone or something to ‘lift’ me from my desert place is the equivalent of reaching for the shiny brass ring. I was looking for a way out, a quick fix, a solution to the discomfort of my current reality.
I hinted at this reality on Friday when I spoke of my wilderness wanderings, I am coming adrift a little. My environment is not what I hoped it would be. There is negativity in this place, there is distrust, dissension. I hear things and see things I never expected to and I am confused as to what is right/Godly, what is Philippa/unimportant. This place is filled with future leaders of Gods church and so it makes sense that satan (or whatever you want to call him) has made this his playground. That is not to say the people here are bad, but the spirit that seems to wind itself around our daily life is not a happy or positive spirit, it’s a weird feeling, one that is hard to define or understand. We are, many of us, afraid – our theologies are being tested, broken down, rebuilt. Our faith is being challenged. The very foundations on which we entered this place are looking less and less secure. We are all having our rough edges smoothed out – the proverbial, refinement by fire process.
I am hungry to learn and I am hungry for challenge. I am not finding that here in the way I originally expected to.
I am desperate to connect with people who will help me to grow spiritually, who speak a similar theological language to my own. I am not finding that here either, in the way in which I expected.
I miss my friends.
I miss my family.
I miss my dogs like there is a gaping hole in my heart.
I am no longer sure of much … what I thought I knew, what I thought I understood is being challenged at a deep level and it’s very disconcerting …
Enter the light …
Enter the good news…
Enter the revelation …
Enter God …
In lasts night devotion, after my initial self-pitying prayer, I sensed God whispering, ‘Let go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your wants and your needs and your desires. Let go of all that you have planned for yourself so you can be ready for what I have planned for you’. (Foot stamp! Damn! What? Really? No!) That was my initial human response of course. (Hangs head)
I had time to sleep on those words and I had a dream about a pregnant lady, falling and landing on her belly – the letting go of a particular dream that perhaps has been brewing in me that is not of God and which is hard and painful for me to relinquish. This brought the realisation that I am once again being governed by selfish desires and the petty protection of a life that ultimately belongs to God.
I woke up feeling better, stronger, less self-pitying, but this is a journey that is only just beginning and so my comfort comes only from knowing that God is with me during this uncomfortable time. In our most vulnerable moments, God is there and so a highlight will undoubtedly be the looking back and the acknowledgment of the signs and wonders that kept me going when my spirit felt like it was running on empty.
I think this is the lesson…
Staying true to God, means staying true to Gods message, staying true to Gods message means listening out for it, listening out means honouring our devotional time, honouring our devotional time opens us up to hear further messages – hearing God speak in all Gods forms of revelation. It means holding on through the wilderness moments and not looking for the quick fix or easy solutions.
In our history class this morning we looked at the theology of Ulrich Zwingler, a reformation scholar and God spoke soothing words to me through a passage in a book …
“Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (Isa 45.15). We know nothing of God or Gods ways (we like to think we know God, but in honesty, God is too big for us to fully know).
So … I quote: “this divine inaccessibility makes Gods self-revelation all the more significant. Even the best human minds cannot know God on their own. To be sure, God created human beings in Gods image and as such, they thirst after the divine presence and long for eternal life [or even just a life IN God]. They are conscious of their basic yearning to be united with the God who gave them breath. Such longing, said Zwingli, is not sufficient to unite us with God, however.
It was natural then for Zwingli to fasten upon Adam as a runaway man who hides himself in his anguish, only to be pursued by a merciful God who asked him where he was, ‘Adam, where are you?’ God, knowing where Adam in his misery was located, still gently asked the question in order to remind our first parent of the sad state into which he had fallen. For Zwingli this adequately proved that God, transcendent and far beyond human grasp, was nonetheless ‘a strong lover of souls’. If religion consists of pious devotion, it is obviously founded upon the [Creators] loyal devotion to his undutiful [child]. Zwingli acknowledged that the matter goes both ways: True religion involves humanity’s loyal devotion to God as well. ‘But pious devotion is complete only when we turn to the One who calls us away from ourselves and our designs.’ Zwingli had it right. The gospel is never about our searching for God; it is always the good news that God is searching for us. People mean well when they say, ‘I have found the Lord.’ It would be much truer to biblical doctrine and in all likelihood to their experience, for them to affirm that the Lord had found them.’ (J Stein in Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century).
So this is where I find myself today. Lost and confused. A little lonely and bewildered, but perfectly secure in the knowledge that my God knows where I am. God calls me out of myself and reminds me that this is a necessary time. That this is a time of growth. That my life belongs to the God who gave me life and that in the end I won’t be sorry, if I just open my hands to receive the grace and know that all is well.
With love …