An Unusual Way
Have you watched The Chosen this last year? Despite very different preferences on many things, my husband and I both found this series on the life of Christ to be quite meaningful. And I confess - we watched them more than once.
To watch the story of Scripture displayed in full color stirred our imagination and drew us into the reality of Immanuel, God with us, in new ways. As the biblical story played out on the screen we watched what it might have been like for each character to be formed by their encounters with Jesus, the God-man. That is one of the reasons I am so drawn to the Scripture passages where individuals encounter God: in the Old Testament we read of Abraham, Moses, Gideon, and Jacob to name a few and in the New Testament we see Jesus engaging with the disciples and so many more.
Isn't that our journey as children of God as well... a journey where we are formed by our encounters with God. We encounter God through His Word, through the Spirit, in prayer and worship, through creation, and through relationships. We are continually invited to receive God's love and to respond, to align, and to re-align with the heart of the Triune God.
There is a phrase that echoed through The Chosen, "Get used to different." It is a simple phrase, and yet it is so representative of God's way with us. God seems to be all about calling us to the unusual, the different, the counterintuitive. It is not that he calls us to the grande or impressive... but rather... God calls us to the unexpected.
God is eternal, big, above, and infinite, so God is beyond our expectation. But the reality is that so often the familiar seems comfortable, certainty feels safe, and formulas provide control. But God invites us to release control, to engage the unfamiliar, to choose to trust. Sometimes I hesitate to surrender, to move into the unknown... when God calls me out. But I am humbled by God's patience and pursuit of me, of us.
I started rereading a classic this week, The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer. I quoted Tozer in my first book, Journey to Become, and this particular quote caught me again.
"We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. 'No man can come to me,' saith our Lord, 'except the Father which hath sent me draw him', and it is by this prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him."
God will stir desire in us to engage the adventure of journeying with Him. I love that. Because the moment I become aware of my slightest desire to press into God when it is "scary or daunting," I can know that God has already been pursuing me. That gives my heart courage.
But sometimes we wonder what will that journey require of us? Courage is required to surrender. We are invited to surrender the false self, the self-protective armor that we have constructed, that operates independently of God. It is the self that seeks to function as its own god through heart habits of self-sufficiency that can be bold and aggressive or withdrawn, fearful, and passive. I can feel the tension within myself and around me - can you?
God invites us to repentance and to partnership, again and again, to a life that is fully God-referenced. This is the abundant life. Life is to be lived as a life hidden in Christ (Colossians 3), in alignment and in dependence upon God the Father, empowered and discerned by the Spirit of God.
What do I need in order to take the next step of faith?
What is God's invitation to me?
A different spiritual practice
Build a new relationship
Engage a unique way of serving
To learn to rest, maybe Sabbath
To do some inner work, maybe engage in counseling
Start an accountability group
Live more simply
Love my enemy
Do the work of forgiveness
Offer generosity in a new way
Ask for help - be vulnerable
Listen to another perspective
Turn off my devices
Choose to fast from something
The podcasts below are found in Season 12 of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership with Ruth Haley Barton. Ruth and Steve explore the teaching rooted in Scripture about the false self (the old creation or the flesh) in The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self by Robert Mulholland Jr.