I am on a new quest right now. And it is filling me with a joy I have not felt in a long time. You can call it an epiphany of sorts. Like a part of me that is awakening again.
Yesterday I ran across an article in Relevant called “What Does It Actually Mean to Connect with God?” In it, the author laments that he always felt that somehow he was not “doing it right” because He didn’t “connect” the way others did, or “hear from God” like all his friends. But then he had a change of mind about the whole connecting with God thing and came to this conclusion:
“We have to get used to the idea that there are a million different ways to spend time with God, to hear His voice, to draw near to Him.”
This is the point at which I wanted to say “You had me at hello.” This particular author finds his place of connection in academics and research. When I read that I almost dropped out of my chair – SO DO I!! My inner geek did the happy dance at that moment. This got me thinking – how and when do I feel that connection? I suppose I never allowed myself to think about it. Quiet time? Getting up at the crack of dawn and yawning through a devotional (that’s how it would go for me; mornings are brutal for me most days).
I refocused on the day at hand, with these thoughts in my mind. Later in the day, I walked into a co-worker’s office to discuss a work matter. The problem solved, our conversation moved to more personal things, and she began to share a concern. After I commented and comforted her in her concern, and she thanked me for making her feel better. And that feeling came over me. That goosebumps in my soul kind of feeling. My face got all tingly and I felt like I’m going to leap through the ceiling. That’s when I know I’m connecting with God – that’s it! That’s the feeling! And at moment I had my awesome “aha!” moment of the week: There’s more to this whole “connecting with God” thing than what I had allowed myself to consider. The message the author was trying to convey finally gelled in my heart. The traditional quiet time is not the only place this can happen. It happens – it can happen – in all of life, if we open ourselves up to the possibility.
And that leads me to my new quest. A quest to decompartmentalize my life. My life feels too fragmented: I have a compartment for work; one for family; one for ministry; one for “time connecting with God”. And most of the time I don’t feel very good at making that connection. That I would think this must happen because of some separate, spiritual practice, and no where else but that, betrays a misunderstanding of the whole concept. All of life is to be done “to the glory of God”. And even when I don’t feel that goosebumps in my soul feeling, I am still connecting with Him if my mind is set on seeking to bring glory to Him in all things. This is not to say that setting aside those times of concentrated worship, or reading, or praying is wrong – but it’s not the whole story. It is bigger, more comprehensive than that.
As I continue to think through this, I am sensing a passion growing for helping people, and pursuing in my own life, what it means to become disciples of Jesus. Not just “believers”, or “adherers” to a particular set of doctrinal standards – but disciples. People who are journeying with Jesus and each other, and living in a constant state of learning. Now, I feel it is important to note that this necessitates that doctrine be important. We must be clear about the foundation upon which we are learning. I think the words “doctrine” and “theology” get a bad rap. They are not faith-stealers – when used for good, they are faith-builders. They are reinforcements of faith because they give it shape and context. Yes, doctrine is necessarily “exclusionary” (I think I just made up a word). You can’t believe one thing and its complete opposite are true at the same time. I am not ashamed to state emphatically that there are certain doctrines that are “givens” – things that you must believe to be Christian. This is true of any religion – why should Christianity be any different? But I think sometimes we – or, let me speak only for myself, I – try to make areas that are grey black and white and then wreak havoc and pain on those who disagree.
But, I digress…the main point I want to drive at is that yes, we need to believe the right things about Jesus if we want to follow Him. Think of it like this: if I am building a friendship with someone, I will want to know that person better in order to relate to them. I have to learn things about them – their likes and dislikes, beliefs, talents, skills, etc. If I do not take the time to know these things, I cannot have a meaningful relationship with them. And this requires talking, listening. It also involves experiencing things with them, walking through problems, enjoying things with them. It is a holistic, all-person engagement with each other that makes the friendship meaningful. If my friend share with me that a certain action bothers them, but I proceed to do it anyway (and often), my tone-deafness to their feelings and/or beliefs will hurt the relationship and drive a wedge between us.
Although our relationship with Jesus is a completely different kind of relationship, it is a relationship nonetheless. And this same dynamic would hold true. We can’t have a meaningful relationship with Jesus if we don’t know who He is. And knowing who He is requires all those elements I listed above. Including talking, listening, reading. Yes, experience is part of it. But you have to explore who Jesus says He is – His own self-identity, what He likes, dislikes. You have to learn things about Him – know things about Him – if you want to know Him. We learn of Him primarily through His Word, His self-revelation to us. Doctrine/theology is man’s way of seeking to understand that revelation. And while relationship with Jesus is not just that, it cannot be less than that.
So the drive, the desire is to make doctrine a bridge, not a wall. A pathway to greater intimacy with Jesus. We cannot disembody doctrine; it must become part of the DNA of life, the life-view if you will, that helps us know and relate to Jesus more – and more deeply. That is my quest.
These are all preliminary, somewhat rambling thoughts. We’ll see where it leads…
More later…grace and peace…