Monday, August 31, 2009

Drawing near...

(In a recent post, I wrote a little about the Five Love Languages, as written about by Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.  I explained how I found myself wondering if they apply to our relationship with God. This is an extra add-on to the seven posts I planned, so I suppose I'll call it 4.b of eight posts on this topic...unless I end up adding more later. ::grins::)

Everything I shared on my last post on Quality Time is still resonating through me. Every time I start talking with God, I find myself overwhelmed with the thought and the question, "God, are You really just waiting for me to want Quality Time with You badly enough? Do you really want to literally show Yourself to me?" And I stand there in awe.

I've found myself wondering just how close to God other people have gotten...both well-known Christian "greats" and unknown ones. Were Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses the only ones who walked with God in a physical way? Or has there been at least one in every generation? What about George Muller? Most Christians are familiar with one or two of his stories, but I doubt many of us really know our God the way he seemed to...but just how close did he get to God? Or what about mothers and grandmothers around the world? Have there been one or two who have gotten so close to God that He allowed them to see and experience things they could not share? That no one but them and God knew anything about?

So how do we draw near to God? That's what I want to write about today...even though anything I might say is only my own humble thoughts. What do I know? I haven't seen God. All I can do is share where I'm at...what God has shown me so far...and ask anyone who's reading this and who wants to share to do the same, so that we may encourage one another.

Yesterday morning, through a somewhat personal set of circumstances, God let me feel His heart. At least, one side of it. I was playing the keyboard and singing for our church's worship service, we finished a song, and I was about to let the keyboard notes trail off into silence when He said, "Keep playing."

I did.

A moment later, He said, "There is a word for the people." In other words, He wanted to speak to the people through somone.

I kept playing, and the worship leader obviously sensed what I did because she fell silent. "Lord," I said, "No one's saying anything."

"Then you speak it," He said. I did, trembling and my voice shaking, simply sharing that I felt God was calling us to call upon Him while He was near. To seek Him while He could be found. That He was only waiting for us to reach out for Him and seek His face, and then we'd see just how close He'd always been.

And then I collapsed on the chair behind the keyboard with tears running down my face, His Spirit pouring prayer in words that I don't know, as He let me feel how His heart breaks when we shrug Him aside...when we turn our back on the strength available in the mercies that are new every morning and rely on caffeine to get us through our days instead...when we willingly step into slavery...when we're just too busy with less important things to do that which would transform our life into something beautiful beyond our comprehension. "Lord," I sobbed, "how often do I still do this? Open my eyes to see, that I can give You those parts of my heart as well!"

The moment passed...but for one moment, I was closer to Him than I usually am...and it hurt. Was it worth it?

After church, I felt a strange mixture of that pain and of the love He feels, for that grief flowed from His love. After lunch, my husband took the kids to go cut wood, and I had several rare hours in the house alone. I did what I haven't done in a while, and I turned on my favorite worship CD and just worshiped while I cleaned house. And it was wonderful! To be able to stop in the middle of the hallway and raise my hands and face to my God and sing from the bottom of my heart, "I'm nothing without You, You are my source of life." To get so lost in the words of the song that I could no longer sing through the emotion that clogged my throat.

And again I was drawn closer to Him than I usually am. But this time it didn't hurt. This time I experienced the fulfillment of being in the arms of the One who created me and completes me.

How do we draw close to God? I think, perhaps, we are held back by thinking there's a formula...that we have to spend x number of hours day praying...that we have to study the Greek and Hebrew...that we have to worship like someone else does.

I think those are lies. I think it's really quite simple. It starts with the same prayer that Moses prayed, "Lord, show me Your ways." It starts with a heart that is totally willing and humble enough to know that it is only through His grace that we are even capable of drawing near to Him. Then He is the one who opens our eyes to see Him moving in our lives...to see things the way He does and know His heart.

I used to view Bible reading as a chore...as reading something for the umpeenth time and getting very little new out of it. I'm afraid my prayers were more along the lines of complaining than sincere requests: "God, what does this mean? I'm not getting anything out of this!" But somehow He led me to write out my questions...and I discovered how journalling my thoughts and prayers and questions slows my overactive brain enough that I can hear Him speak. And wow! The things I began discovering in the Bible, as I wrote! That was Him, taking my lack of excitement about the Bible and overwhelming it with my deeper desire to know Him. I couldn't do it...but He did! Now the choice of obedience is mine, daily...to continue walking the path that He opened up for me, or to turn my back on it.

Prayer used to be something I labored to do...a list I brought before God. But it's not, you know. I think there's more to prayer than I can comprehend, but God has opened my eyes to see how one aspect of it is simply talking to the God who surrounds me and fills me, about everything that comes my way. When I've messed up and I feel far away from Him, that's just a lie in my mind. He's still there, watching me ignore Him and pretend that He's not interested in the companionship of someone so faulty. But again, opening my eyes to these truths was something He did...a path that He opened up when I was incapable of finding it.

And then there's worship...my passion. But it didn't used to be! I was a girl who stood with my arms locked to my sides throughout the worship service. I hated it when our charismatic church organized a processional or dance presentation for the girls to do. I refused to sing a song with the words, "I would give my final breath, to know You in your death and resurrection, oh I want to know You more." Why? Because I knew He heard the words I sang, and I was afraid He'd take me up on that if I said it, even though we both knew it would be a lie. I didn't want to die! I was so bound up in so many things, and I didn't even realize it.


I certainly wasn't asking Him to set me free to dance. But He did! I'll never forget the day and the welling of desire for an unknown something that filled me. The next thing I remember, I was dancing before Him on the stage. (Don't get judgemental, please...this was an informal, evening worship service when the floor in front and stage were open for anyone, so what God did was perfectly orderly.) Anyway, I have absolutely no recollection of moving from the place of bondage that my seat had become, to the place of freedom in His presence that I found when I gave every cell of my body up in worship. But I have never gone back. Sometimes I allow life to get in the way and I momentarily forget about the path into His presence that He opened up that day. But no matter where I am, no matter how I feel, that path is always there...and the distance from my sorrow and misery to the ecstasy of His presence is never more than a few moments long.

I won't say that praise and worship is the only way to draw near to Him, for it is in studying my Bible that I come to know Him. And it is through prayer that I learn what going through my days with Him is like. But I will say that praise and worship might be the only way to enter His physical presence. (Keep in mind that worship doesn't have to be singing. You can speak your praises.) How does the Bible tell us to enter His courts? "With praise." Why? Because when you praise Him, your words are creating a throne for Him to sit down on. You're pulling up a chair for Him and asking Him to make Himself comfortable. He created our world with His voice, and we create His easy chair with ours. And when He settles Himself on what we create, chains fall from our hands and feet, until all we can do is stand enraptured in His presence.

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So perhaps drawing near to Him consists of nothing more than holding up our shackled hands and saying, "Here, Lord. Set me free from what keeps me from You. I don't know how to let it go, and I'm not strong enough to break them anyway. But I am willing to let it all go. I am yours. I want to know Your ways, and I will praise You, no matter what."

What do you think? And what have you experienced?

2 comments:

  • Crown of Beauty says:
    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Hi Katie,
    In just a few hours we will be leaving for the mountain city of Baguio, a lovely place. Will be back to read this post four days from now.

    Just wanted you to know there is an award waiting for you over at my place.

    Love
    Lidj

  • Annie says:
    Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Oh my, Katie. I'm so sorry it took me so long to read this, and sorry too that no one else has commented! This post was incredible. Many of these things, I didn't realize about you! (How can we miss so many things about people we've known all our lives?!) I love what you've said, and really love how you ended it. "He created our world with His voice, and we create His easy chair with ours." So incredible to think that we can do this. That He is really that interested in us. It's ... so mind-boggling and overwhelming that it's just so easy not to really believe that it's true. And yet it is.

    "has there been at least one in every generation?" Wow, that made my eyes pop. Steph and I were just discussing generations today. I'd guess you're right ... although I have no proof. Actually ... sure I do. Elijah bemoaned that there was no one else in all the land, and God hushed him up, saying that there were 700 who hadn't bowed the knee. So I'm guessing there also has never been a time where someone wasn't literally walking with God.

    Fantastic post, Katie. Thanks.

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