Here’s an excerpt from one of my latest reading delights…
For over thirty years I have been pursuing a desperate course with an impossible speed. It is not that I have been misguided – only that I have forgotten to see, feel, touch, and taste. I would not retrace a single step – yet I know that I have scorned a thousand nights in my blind haste. It has always impressed me that Jesus was not pursued nor pursuing. Nothing could interrupt him, nor could anything detain him. He saw every cripple yet passed them up for the cross. He felt every pain of the hungry, the dispossessed, and the sinful, yet had time for his own suffering. There was a time when I would have been satisfied with nothing less than saving the world – now I am more concerned with saving myself. Somehow I think the two are more related than it first appears.
This is Ray S. Anderson in Soulprints. I have been reading a lot of his work lately, both this collection of jottings from his early years as a pastor and his more academic offerings. In some ways he has been messing with my head – not once called the ‘maverick theologian’ of Fuller for no reason, I suppose! But in others, his words seem to speak truth to me too.
You don’t have to have been around me for long to know that I am driven, that I too often pursue a desperate course with an impossible speed. And it is not that I regret that course, for I don’t. Not at all. Nor would I retrace a single step.
Yet I too have scorned a thousand days and nights in my haste to live with all that I am for God.
This thought has been challenging me a bit lately. A friend called me on it the other week, asking me why I live so much of my life with an eye to the future, scorning the past and not being that interested in the present. (I couldn’t answer that then, but I think I’m beginning to see the answer and I’m not sure that I like it.)
Then I read the quotation above from this pastor-theologian who knew his stuff and knew his God (or so it seems as I read his work!). He makes me hear the same thing. It is time to live slow. Time to focus on the being and let the doing flow from that as it may.
And then, finally, that same day I got hold of a review copy of Skye Jethani’s book, With, the basic premise of which is that many of us live our lives under God or over him, from him or for him, and yet so rarely with him. Even without reading more than the first chapter’s explanation of these ‘types’, I heard the Spirit of God loud and clear. A bit too loud and clear as it happens! I have lived for God for a very long time, and not so much in conscious communion with him.
It’s not that to do things for God is wrong or bad. It’s not. But when work replaces relationship, when doing usurps being, and when I forget to see and feel, touch and taste, then something is wrong. I know that it is time to begin to face this deep pattern of sin, to bring it to the light, to root it out ruthlessly, until I experience – in this area of my life – the reality of the glorious freedom of the children of God.
I am greatly encouraged that God has been speaking so clearly and consistently about it. The awareness about this issue was there all last year, but only as a background niggle, a knowledge that this bit of me needed more redemption than I’d yet seen. Yet the theme has become clearer and clearer, in challenges from friends, voiced in prophecy by those who had never met me, echoing in the way I was led to Luke 10:38-42 and the intimacy of Mary’s posture at the feet of Jesus at the top of this year, and in the ever-present, if muted, theme to my blog all last year.
That God has made his mind so clear on this is a source of joy for me. You see, it tells me that he is now going to get involved on this one! I can’t fix the drivenness, the idolatry of productivity, the addiction to efficiency in my life.
It’s bigger than me, you see.
But then, isn’t all sin?
What joy, though, to know that when God begins to move in response to that sin, when he reminds me that there will be freedom as I take the Mary-posture at the feet of Jesus, then the enemy needs to start running scared. Because that, as you know from your own life and your own sin, is the place of victory. That is the place where we have only to be still and watch the Lord fight the battle on our behalf, the place where we need only to be and watch him do.
So whilst I don’t know how long this will take, and whilst you may not see the difference in me immediately or indeed perhaps any time soon, I know this: freedom is coming. Freedom to be, quite apart from the doing. Freedom to enjoy life with God instead of trying so hard to live for him. Freedom to choose the Mary-posture, even in the midst of all the work which Martha saw to do. And, perhaps, in line with that prophetic word spoken over me last year, freedom one day to be a Martha who serves out of the heart and identity of a Mary.
Is God pursuing you these days over matters that you once would not have named sin and yet now know to be less than beautiful in his sight? And have you discovered the crazy joy in that yet, knowing that he who begins this good work does not let anything distract him in his purpose?