A Question on Experiencing a Relationship with God

 

 

Every so often I get a question like this:

 

“You article called “What is a Christian?” describes our relationship with God as a “heart-to-heart relationship with the living God.”  I’ve been a Christian since I was 9 (I’m 43 now), but I’ve never experienced anything with God that I would call heart-to-heart.  God seems about as personal as gravity, which is obviously a powerful influences in our lives, but not exactly something with which one can have a heart-to-heart relationship. … I’m familiar with many of the arguments for the Christian faith, but it’s hard to continue believing in God when he never seems to be “there.”  It’s like I’ve read a lot of books on rain, but every time I look out the window the sun is always shining.”

 

 

And the question always seems to come in during some kind of trial in my life (generally a small-scale one, the kind not big enough to feel ‘persecuted’ for, but just big enough to make me feel ‘in an abnormal time’).

 

The way I remember the timing about this comes from the list of my ‘answers’ or suggestions: the fifth one on the list (in order of my jotting them down—not the order discussed below) is the one I am typically ‘employing’ during the trials. That is, the use of a whining/worrylist.

 

But before I get into the things I do/approaches I take to dealing with ‘dry spells’ or a sense of distance between God and I, let me do a little level-setting on expectations.

 

[I am not going to ask the obvious, first-order, due-diligence questions which should always be asked before diving into this kind of a question, because I am assuming that you have already done the honest self-evaluation and history-assessment prerequisites: like ‘have you ever experienced answered prayer?’, ‘if you don’t have any evidence for God’s existence, then why are you still calling yourself a believer?’, ‘have you studied the historical arguments for the gospel histories, to the point that THEY can be considered evidence?’, etc. So, I am going to assume you have already determined that you really are a New Testament Christian/believer, and that you have already identified/rectified any your-side barriers to a relationship with God. Obviously, if the process derails at these earlier points, then my suggestions are going to be useless, and you would need to start from a different space.]

 

First, I want to try to differentiate my understanding of ‘heart-to-heart’ from emotional experiences of God.

 

The ‘my’ part of the heart-to-heart is simply me being verbal about my heart with God. That’s essentially what we include in the odd word ‘prayer’, but for me it’s much bigger than cultural stereotypes of ‘closed eyes, quiet voice, folded hands, facing downward’ prayer. For me it is presenting my case to God aloud, looking upward (although I know that is more for me, than for Him…), doing my self-analysis ‘in front of’ God—asking for guidance in my analysis, and articulating my every feeling, doubt, thought—like I might to a good Therapist…

 

The ‘God’ part of heart-to-heart is me learning from scripture, from reflected-on-experience, from others, and from conscience what is in God’s heart. I am convinced that He discloses His Heart  (i.e. what pleases Him, what grieves Him, how He prioritizes between the many different things that please Him, etc) progressively, as we respond to His disclosures to us. Of course, I do think most (if not all) of this is contained in His written Word, but after almost 40 years of reading it daily I am still surprised by what I ‘just now noticed in there!’ on a daily basis. Theologically, we call that the ‘illumination ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit’ (smile),  but it still amounts to the same—God unveiling His message in the Word to us, as we move closer to Him in our intentions.

 

The emotional content of this varies. When I am pouring my heart out before God, I feel pain—not ‘joy in His presence’—but I DO sense His ‘attention’. I don’t sense any action on His part—other than listening and perhaps solidarity in some cases—but I seem to be aware of His ‘there-ness’ . [It’s a little like the perception/awareness of somebody else in your house, when they are in another room. There is no direct perception of them, but you are ‘aware’ that they are there and can hear you.]

 

When I get a new insight about God’s heart during bible reading in the morning (or anytime for that matter), I am often pleased and/or warmed in my heart. I thank my Lord for sharing that insight with me, and I think about it a minute or two and then continue reading. No real ‘numinous experience’ there, but just a mild, quiet ‘touch of blessing’ (some quiet joy, some ‘eureka’, some peace—but nothing significantly ‘bigger’ than what I might experience with another close friend who has shared something intimate with me). It is ‘bigger’ because of the Person sharing with me, obviously, but the nature/quality of the experience is still that of personal disclosure, in the context of interpersonal trust.

 

What this means is that the heart-to-heart relationship aspect is more interpersonal than it is ‘sensory’ (?). It is about personal disclosure of ‘hearts’, not the actual ‘feeling’ of someone else’s heart. But this brings me to the second part of the level-setting: the occasional experiences of ‘touch’.

 

So, secondly, I want to point out that relationships do have emotional aspects, often independently of the quantity/quality of the interactions/disclosures. For example, a man might be mad at his brother for 40 years—never speaking—and the emotional content of that ‘non-interacting relationship’ would be very, very powerful. There are people mad at God who have never even addressed Him with a grievance. There are people who swoon in affection over pop idols, without ever having ‘touched’ them.

 

I can have an emotional touch (painful or pleasurable) by simply remembering old friends, old events, and old words. I have experienced personally the ability of humans to grow powerful emotive attachments to people they have never seen, and have only corresponded with 2-3 times per year for a couple of years [I experience this with my Compassion Kids regularly, although they have no ‘practical way’ to influence my daily life.]

 

 

But there are flashes of emotive touch that occur in (some) relationships, and there are flashes of ‘presence’ that occur in (some) relationships. They are ‘flashes’, because relationships are not characterized by ‘uninterrupted experience of intense emotions’ but more by a weaving of interaction, influence, distance, nearness, immediacy, reflection, sensing, remembering, imaging and re-imaging, time-delay communication, etc. And I certainly do believe that God ‘touches’ us at times in our perceptive life (apart from the cognitive conviction that He is present with us, attentive to us, and sharing our experiences with us all the time).

 

Before I get on to the concrete things I do to open myself up to those touches, let me also point out that the life of the believer is supposed to emotionally robust, yet varied. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22-23)—although more focused on character traits than emotions—nonetheless has an emotional dimension. “Goodness” and “self-control” might seem emotionally neutral, but ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ probably have an emotive/experiential aspect.

 

But the follower of the Lord can also experience anxiety, fear, pain, grief, etc. I wrote elsewhere on the Tank, from the experiences of Paul and Timothy:

 

“The Christian life is NOT some emotional froth or insensate tranquility, undisturbed by agonizing challenges, mind numbing trauma/grief, uncertainties of many stripes/colors...I think of the author of "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace" (Gal 5) who could also describe his moments of abject despair, paralyzing anxiety, abandonment by friends and comrades, disobedience to God at 'open doors', etc...and of the recipient of Timothy--the 'only one' Paul could recommend as free of self-interest--as troubled by fear and timidity and fear of rejection...or even of our Jesus--betrayal, loneliness, disgrace, agony of heart, being 'troubled of spirit'...a Man of Sorrows...”

 

At some level, our Christian life is supposed to be a ‘normal’ human (in the original sense of pre-Fall humanity) life, with all the variations in intensity that a normal human life might have now. There are times of intense trauma, spikes of ecstatic joy, and periods of flatness—but most of it is simply ‘rich-while-ordinary’. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were called ‘servants of the LORD’, but they spent the vast majority of their lives in simple agriculture and animal husbandry tasks. David and Moses (and the prophets) would have had lives characterized by exceptional experiences of God, but the simple ‘faithful of the Land’ in the times of Isaiah or Jeremiah would have had religious lives characterized by less vividness, yet deep conviction of God’s oversight and providence. They would not have seen the miracles and portents of the generation of Moses, but they knew God from the audit trail of His work in creating the nation of Israel (like many of us start our relationship with God by reading the story of His intervention in His Son on our behalf). They would reflect on God’s goodness when they went to Jerusalem for the feasts. They would pour their hearts out to God when in crisis, and thank Him with vow-fulfillment offerings later. They would have experienced God in His answers to prayer, in the sense of His comfort in crisis, and in the reception of blessings of home, hearth, health, and horticulture.

 

The experience of a “lay” New Testament believer might be very similar, although the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit provides a much, much greater opportunity to experience God’s ‘inner life’. But this treasure of possibility is something that has to be cultivated and developed through interaction, and is not something that grows without deliberate attention.

 

So we (finally) come to the suggestions—of how I devote ‘deliberate attention’ to growing my experience of God. (Remembering, of course, that my goal is NOT emotion per se, but greater personal/intimate knowledge of God’s heart and ways!)  

 

 

So, here’s the things I personally use for dealing with ‘dry spells’ or ‘waste-land’ periods:

 

First is what I just mentioned: the whining/worrylist, and it comes in two parts.

 

The whining part is just that—a time when I pace around the house (alone, obviously) and ‘whine’ out loud to my Lord about feeling dry, distant, lifeless, dead, stagnant, fruitless, lost, drifting, etc. I just pour out my (dry) heart and worries and complaints about my current emotional experience. I have ‘emotionally vivid’ times in the past to compare to the current experience, though, so I do know ‘what I am missing’ (in the way of experience) and I ask (over and over) “what’s wrong?!”. I explore (always out loud to God as my conversation partner) all the possible reasons for this dryness. I raise the issues of sin (dredging up all possible ‘guilt-tinged’ habits/actions/inactions du jour), imbalance (physical and/or mental), testing of perseverance (e.g., do I require immediate visceral feedback to stay on track—a walking by sight, instead of by faith?), testing of motives (i.e. do I walk with Him only because it feels ‘alive’), sickness (i.e., I normally don’t feel very spiritual when I am on Nyquil), bio-chemical depression from a binge work-project, etc.

 

I typically don’t get a clear answer to this extended exploration and analysis (and I often weep with frustration and/or discouragement over my temporary spiritual lostness and my sense of helplessness to ‘do anything’ about it), but after pouring my heart and doubts and confusion and anxiety out to my good-hearted Lord for 30-60 minutes, I am certainly more aware of His presence in my life/experience. [And, I typically have uncovered some useful ‘mid-course corrections’…sigh/smile]

 

A variant of this—used for helping cut through the ‘drag’ created by anxiety—is the worry list. This is just a simple sheet of paper on which I make two columns: one labeled ‘my worries’ and the other labeled ‘His response’. And I put EVERYTHING—however ‘small’ on my worry-column. I even put things I might consider selfish on it. But ‘dryness’ is always on the top of the list.

 

I generally have 40-60 items on this list, including individual work projects (if I have some anxiety about them, of course), health, retirement$, relationships with family, local projects, individual Tank pieces, and a whole HOST of ‘vague issues’ (e.g., balance, priorities, openness, personal theology, legalism versus license, use of money, etc), in which there might not be a specific issue of the moment, but just the expression of my omnipresent self-doubt and self-vilification.

 

But, again, as I build this list I am (out loud, or silently in my heart if I am on an airplane) laying them out before the Lord. Lifting them up, expressing my very real dependence, voicing my willingness to accept failure/defeat/embarrassment on each (if it is His will—‘not my will, but Thine’—He never promised me that my life would we worry-less! In fact, the opposite is true—He promised me trials and persecutions and ‘surmountable difficulties’…smile) , and in some cases, I even list my embarrassment at putting a ‘questionable’ item on the list

 

But I list them all—even those that might be issues of personal vanity, self-approbation, personal ‘comfort’, etc—and I express that concern about them as I attempt to be comprehensive (“Lord, this is possibly more selfish than saint-ish, but it is still something I worry about—for good or ill”).

 

By the time I have examined my life in front of the Lord—openly, honestly, and semi-exhaustively—I can sense that He is ‘closer to center’ in my life/experience than when I started the process. I have involved Him in more of the ‘real life’ issues of my heart in this process, and that is one of the things He seeks for me—He is a Savior and Shepherd, after all.

 

[Also, after all of this, I still do that ritual thing I have mentioned often on the Tank. I fold the paper and write 1 Peter 5.7 on it. But now I don’t tear the paper up (like I did formerly), but I keep it and record the ‘His response’ column over time. This is sort of like the “I/we ask, He answers” lists I did with my kids growing up, and like I do NOW as a single adult. He has provided an ‘impressive audit trail’ of resolving issues in my life (although many issues I WANT resolved have not been dealt with yet—and many of those fall into the ‘Your will, not mine’ category—IMO).]

 

Ok, on to the second—my FAV—and the most ‘dependable’ one (smile). Immersion in the Word of God.

 

Over the decades, I have learned how powerful the Word can be on our hearts. I have seen it drag me up out of the mire over and over and over again, and it is something I can depend on to manifest its ‘life and power’ whenever I let it.

 

Here’s what I do. In times of wasteland/heart-drought/drifting-deadness, I sit down in quietness and read a passage of scripture over and over and over until I am changed. I personally go for the ‘Christologically densest” passages I know of, some of the Pauline epistles and I Peter. I skip the passages which deal with history/controversy, often, so my list typically includes: Gal 5-6; and all of Eph, Phil, Col; and I Peter.

 

What I do is to select 3-4 chapters from this range of scripture and read it over and over without stopping, 10-20 times. Normally, I can ‘feel’ a difference within 5-6 times, but I continue on. My mind wanders (especially if under anxiety) and I am CONSTANTLY under distraction, but every repetition makes it easier to focus—as the Word shares its life with my spirit. Never fails me. Sometimes takes 5 readings, sometimes 10, occasionally 20. But I try hard to not ‘study’ it. I avoid ‘looking things up’, consulting commentaries, or getting sidetracked on background information ‘About’ those passages. [I do underline and connect words, because these are functions of interacting with the text itself.] Rather, I am trying to just drink from the fire hose of Living Water.  In very distracting situations, I read it aloud until I can focus better.

 

The important thing is to not ‘objectify it’ via over-scrutiny, study, background information, etc. You can underline and draw connections, but don’t ‘chart anything’. The point is to approach it as a living voice, as—in the words of the forebears—one of the ‘means of grace’. God’s heart is in His word, in-shrined, in-carnated, in-scripturated. It is the breath of God (‘inspiration’) that gives our dust-body life (Gen 1-2), and the seed/stock from which our new hearts grow (James 1.18; I Pet 1.23).

 

So, just saturate your present with it—for about an hour or two—and the life of it will become increasingly tangible and numinous.

 

For me, this has been the major way I have kept alive all these years.

 

[Btw, I do these New Testament passages for ‘dryness’, but I do the Psalms for times of intense pain.]

 

 

Next/third is the use of music. For me, a good Christian song (if I am alone) can bypass most of my cognitive defense mechanisms and can neutralize (temporarily) my pre-disposition to morbidity and pessimism. [In the rare group setting I find myself in, it can even override the extreme self-consciousness that normally stops me from enjoying communal worship of our God.] I find that some songs can just reduce me to a formless mass of emotional jello, weeping and worshipping, humbled and honest, overwhelmed with His beauty and grace, re-perspectivized back to the beautiful center of a life with God.

 

I have to sing along with these for them to lift me up—just to listen wont work, the transport/entanglement just isn’t there for me. It is when I step into the stream of worship or praise or thanks or affirmation or righteous request (of a fellow traveler?) that I am somehow aligned/confluent with the movement of the Holy Spirit in that moment of dance-before-God.

 

For me, these songs can be old Isaac Watts-type songs, or wild Celtic hymns, or contemporary in-your-face Christian alternative rock. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Amazing Love, Great is thy Faithfulness, All Hail the Power of Jesus Name (because of my seminary years), A Mighty Fortress is our God, Are you Small Enough (Nicole Nordiman), a couple of songs from the Left Behind Album (You are so Beautiful, I will hide myself in Jesus, Brians Song), Fearless Love and Stage Set in Darkness/Love will find a Way (Rich Mullens) are some of the ones I use.

 

Again, get alone—with no one watching—and listen with your eyes closed (or looking upward as you sing) and heart focused on the moment. This works for me because the music is a very powerful expression of common grace/creative initiative by God. Music seems to affect us in sub-conscious ways (for good or ill). It can be an incident of grace-in-tones, dancing through the air into our hearts.

 

In the case of hymns with understandable lyrics, there are always parts of verses that stand out in my experience, and these reach deeper into my heart (and I sing them a little louder…smile).

 

But—unlike the scripture reading—this I cannot do over and over, or it becomes stale. It becomes more ‘memory work’ and performance than sharing.   

 

 

Fourth is the Thanks list—the best means for regaining perspective and re-centering my existential posture in the universe.

 

This is another ‘list’ (smile—recovering OCDer here—‘yeah, right—your obvious brevity/conciseness is a clear witness of your recovery, Glenn’!). For this list, you back up as far back—perspective-wise—as you can and write down the things you are grateful for. It doesn’t matter how grateful you ‘feel’ (that will vary minute-by-minute, in this life…unfortunately), but rather whether you consider the item to be something you SHOULD ‘feel grateful for’ (smile). This has to be an honest list—there have been many times when I could list ‘forgiveness of sins’ and ‘my kids’ and yet could NOT list ‘my being alive today’ or ‘my having been born to experience this life’. Make the list as comprehensive as possible—from the depths of life to even the things which might seem ‘petty’ from the perspective of eternity. I can thank God for my education, and also thank him for an hour the day before when I got to listen to good music. [In other words, my personal ‘rankings’ of these are from my perspective, and my hour of music might be almost as important—in the grand scheme of things—as my education. I can only work from my perspective, and He appreciates (‘is patient with’?) my every attempt to express gratitude for my perceived blessings.]

 

I do try to start with the deeper of issues: my Cross-based acceptance by the God of the Universe; my being placed by the saving work of Jesus into the life He desires for me to enjoy and unfold in; my access to the written Word of God; the ‘embedding’ of His Spirit within my mind/heart; the ability to perceive goodness and beauty; the opportunities to help/share with others; my kids and family; some of His treasured-trophies I have been graced to know in this life; my future with Him… and it expands into matters of provision, aspects of my health which allow me freedom to serve (not all aspects of health do this, of course), education, job, etc… and on and on…

 

On most ‘good’ days, I can even list some of my adversities and limitations—at least those I can honestly attest to their contribution to my life. I can thank Him for limitations that ‘steer me’ toward ways of fruitfulness, and for fears that keep me from getting involved in things which would overwhelm me. But I generally start the list with the more ‘pleasant blessings’ (smile).  

 

This approach is more fundamental to life than I think we understand. I have always been ‘troubled’ by Romans 1.21, in which the first condemnation of the pagans includes that they were not ‘thankful’. I have written elsewhere on this topic on the Tank, but suffice it to summarize here that the social/interpersonal recognition of beneficence is a value/virtue grounded ‘deeply’ in the Trinity, and is somehow ontologically fundamental to our human/personal/social nature. This is NOT something ‘reserved for God’—we are supposed to be expressing thanks to those around us, and to God for those agents too. It is a fundamental impulse(?) of honesty, a non-peripheral part of a truthful/holistic response to a goodness/value received from another/Another.

 

[But in this discussion, I am focused ‘more practically/crassly’ on the disclosure/openness aspect of the act of thanksgiving, than on its conformity to God’s ethical character.]

 

In my own practice, I journal daily anyway, so I have a line item every day in which I mention the ‘day-centric event-type’ blessings I experience each day. So, for example, here’s the list for the last 5 days: “vast minutia done”, “morale high”, “so much accomplished”, “safe travel”, “progress on Tank article”, “”got through my presentation OK”, “feeling better”, “Nyquil working”, “Derek’s spirit”, “progress on Tank article”, “mom moving better”.

 

I also build year-long lists at Thanksgiving and New Years Eve (not at the detail of ‘Nyquil working’ though). But I will do a list when I feel ‘distance’ or ‘off-center’ in my relationship with God (and sometimes in my relationship to others), and it will help me in my perspective and in my experience of God’s involvement in my life.

 

 

Fifth is the use of meditation on God’s goodness.

 

This approach is where I take some aspect of God’s goodness and turn it over and over and over in my mind, letting the idea/concept completely ‘fill/dominate my attention and mind’. 

 

I “accidentally” (hahaha) discovered this in seminary. In one of the Greek classes, I was assigned Ephesians 3.14-19 to study and write up my exegesis. The passage reads thus:

 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. [NAS, emphasis mine]

 

In these classes, one typically spent 30-40 hours of analysis on each text, sifting through the various meaning-possibilities for each case ending, each verb inflection, each word order choice, etc. So we were really, really, really interacting up-close with the text. In my study, as I started trying to understand Paul’s point about the ‘immensity’ of Christ’s love, I ‘inadvertently’ thought about it ‘too much’ (i.e, ‘unintentional meditation’… smile) and I stumbled into an experience of the ‘fullness of God’. It was overwhelming in intensity, terrifying in its power/depth, and unlike anything else I had experienced up to that point in my short Christian life. Academics in sociology/psychology have called these types of experiences ‘experiences of the numinous’ and the Latin phrase was “mysterium tremendum et fascinans (e.g., Rudolph Otto, in The Idea of the Holy).

 

I experience this sometimes with the music experience too, and VERY often when in a communal context. [Since many of the hymns I like are ‘meditations on the goodness of God, enhanced by tasteful music’ (smile), I end up at the same place: focusing my attention and response on some aspect of God’s goodness.]

 

Here’s some description/discussion of this mysterium tremendum, and a Pauline corrective to the ‘life-threatening’ aspect:

 

“The apprehension of the holy, the mysterium tremendum, is widely characterized by a sense of “awfulness,” or fear combined with a sense of fascination and of gracious intent. This “strange harmony of contrasts,” which Otto sees as the most noteworthy phenomenon in the history of religions” Freedman, D. N. (1996, c1992). The Anchor Bible Dictionary (6:509). New York: Doubleday.

 

“In terms of experience rather than thought, a popular attempt has been made more recently to describe God in terms of the awe or reverence evoked by the sense of the unknown. God is the numinous element, the mysterium tremendum (R. Otto, Idea of the Holy [Engtr, 2nd ed 1958]), which is not strictly definable, but which is sensed by all men, whether it be by the religious man in his worship, the poet in his awareness and expression of beauty, or the scientist impressed by the grandeur and complexity of the cosmos.” Bromiley, G. W. (1988; 2002). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (2:493-494). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

 

“In this context the divine holiness can be characterized, in the terms offered by Rudolf Otto, as mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a fearful and captivating mystery: there is both dread and attraction, a sense of encounter with an overwhelming presence that cannot and may not be approached in a profane manner, but that nonetheless demands and expects approach. Thus as Moses approached the divine presence indicated in the burning bush, he removed his shoes in acknowledgement of the holiness of God and the sacredness of the place of God (Ex. 3; 4f). Similarly the prophet Isaiah experienced in his vision of God in the temple a sense of distance and separation from the holy, together with a profound dread (Isa. 6:3–5). Nonetheless the separation and the dread were both overcome — not by the desacralizing of the divine but by the purification and sanctification of the human. In both these instances, in contrast to some of the implications of Otto’s history-of-religions approach, the One encountered is not an impersonal power but a personal divine being.” Bromiley, G. W. (1988; 2002). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (4:321). Wm. B. Eerdmans.

 

“Particularly notable here is the thought of divine glory as a manifestation of power (like the radiant energy of the sun), a thought equally rooted in the folk memory of the fearful numinous power (mysterium tremendum) of such theophanies (Exod. 19:16–24; Num. 16:19–35; Isa. 6:4–5). In Paul this is understood as beneficial power, transforming for the better (Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 3:18; the parallel with Ephesians here is 3:16), though with double effect in 2 Thes. 1:9–10. Since transformation into heavenly splendor (glory) is part of the hope for heaven (see also on 1:27 and 3:4), the prayer is in effect for that process to be forwarded already here on earth (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16–5:5; see also 1:27; H. Hegermann, EDNT 1.346–47). That this train of thought is in mind here is confirmed by the strong eschatological and realized eschatological note in the next two verses.” Dunn, J. D. G. (1996). The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon : A commentary on the Greek text (74). Grand Rapids, Mich.;  Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing;  Paternoster Press.

 

 

Frankly, this experience scared me so bad that I don’t ‘go here’ very often [although they ‘hit’ me about twice a year, without my intent, just because I reflect a lot on God’s unfathomable goodness]. I prefer ‘milder’ experiences of God’s power. So, I meditate ‘just long enough’ to ‘feel the approach’ of the power (e.g., it gets harder to breathe), and then I back away.  I apologize to my Lord, but He knows my/our weakness of frame. When He came to earth, He was gracious and gentle enough to clothe/cloke that explosive/vaporizing power in ordinary, approachable, even huggable, flesh. Someday, I will be enough like Him (after the Transformation) to see Him ‘as He is’—joy of joys—because He tells me that this is one of the goals of His love (See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is, I John 3.1ff).

 

But my ‘close enough’ approaches in meditation are tangible/powerful enough for me—I can see what all that ‘talk’ in the NT about the ‘power of God when He raised Christ from the dead’ is about. And I have had a fresh ‘respect’ for that power since that first experience.

 

But the suggestion here is simply to do the ‘close enough’ version of this: meditate, memorize, reflect upon—for a long, isolated, uninterrupted period—on some aspect of the goodness of God. Christ’s immense love has already been mentioned as a subject, but you could explore some of the other ‘over the top’ self-disclosures of our God:

 

  • Think about the implications of Eph 1.6—that the plan of God is to the ‘praise of the glory of His grace’ (not of His power, or of His immensity—but of His kindness and munificence), how ‘odd’ and how ‘big’ this is;
  • Think about what it might mean for God to have ‘treasured’ ancient Israel (Dt 26.17), or, derivatively, YOU.
  • Think about the ‘lavish’ passages (I wrote about recently in a Letter on the Tank)
  • Why does God want to ‘honor’ or ‘praise’ us??!!! (1 Peter 1.7; 1 Cor 4.5; Rom 2.29; Rom 2.10)—what does that tell you about God?
  • Think about the God of the Universe washing dirty feet as an example (John 13)
  • Think about what it implies that God honors the outcasts of this world so much (e.g. Jas 2.5; 1 Cor 1.26)
  • Think about how ‘big’ the love and heart had to be for our Lord to ‘live’ Phil 2.5ff (and how big that ‘step down’ WAS)
  • What does it mean for God to be called a “man of sorrows”

 

Just some starter ideas—but you could do studies on words like ‘kindness’, ‘loyalty’, ‘graciousness’—and all the words in those families… and have more than enough ‘goodness’ to lose yourself in…

 

So, anyway, that’s my ‘practical’ list of suggestions.

 

These are not really ‘rituals’ or ‘manipulations’ to get God to do something He doesn’t want to do(!!!), but rather things I do that God ‘humors me in’—so He can warm my life with His good presence and light up my often-murky heart…

 

Hopefully, SOMETHING in this will be of use to you, as you try afresh to open up more to God’s disclosure of His heart to you, friend…

 

I realize this is SO WORDY, but I didn’t know what all I needed to mention by way of context and qualification (that first part)… blessings, friend—I suspect that God is already at work in your situation—just because you sent the question in and in so doing, took that next step toward Him… He is, after all, eager to draw us closer to His warmth…

 

Glenn  

 

 


The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)