This is the third article in The Gathering 2017 Summer Devotional Series. The entire series can be viewed here.
I have no idea when it happened, because I thought I had been paying closer attention. But when I looked over at my oldest daughter, with her legs crossed, her hair tucked, and her cheeks thinner than they used to be, I could almost feel the wind blow across my face from the years that have somehow flown by.
I can look into a mirror and count the lines on my forehead, and recount the years that put them there. How can faces change like that? How can the years evaporate just. like. that?
Why did I wish to be older when I was young? I think I thought I would land on an age and be who I thought I was supposed to be, as wise as I thought I should be. I thought I would automatically know how to raise my children and have a beautiful house, and it would all be lovely and beautiful all the time. I assumed I would be a perfect wife who loved and adored every single thing about my husband.
I assumed that, by now, I would’ve landed on this spiritual mountain, knowing everything, and flourishing in this lovely, beautiful, perfect life my imagination created.
And now that I’m at the age and in the season I thought I’d land upon and bask in? Expectations always steal and kill our joy when what we expected looks differently than what we have—even if what we have is beautiful.
My children are growing at lightspeed, and I’m aging exactly as fast as they are. I feel like I’ve been a bit beat up and blown around along the way; drowning at times. I’ve believed that because my life was hard, meant that it was wrong. Meant that I was wrong. I’ve often felt like Jesus is above me, and I’m running underneath him trying to get up to him–or chasing him around trying to grab ahold of the bottom of his robe and hang on hoping he would notice. I didn’t know that the way to the spiritual mountain I thought I’d live on would be marked by graves and headstones, depression, resentment, and anger.
I was sitting in a small group not too many years ago, feeling like I had been wrung right out and dried up. Wishing I could be like the people who were there that I looked up to. Wishing I had the surety and boldness to pray like that. Wishing I could raise up a hand to the heavens and touch God and just be with him. Even though I had tried, I felt like I had been shut out of some spiritual realm that I would never be able to enter, and even if I could, I felt miles and years away from it.
I was jealous of it, and parched and starving for it.
But haven’t I been raised in church? Haven’t I been saved “my whole life?” Shouldn’t I know by now how to do this? Shouldn’t I be different than I am, and a little less messed up and sad?
How do I get closer? How do I pray like that? How do I reach right out to God and be assured that he would look and see and hear and care? Why is my faith so restless and my footing so slippery?
St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.”
“ . . . until it finds its rest in Thee.”
Oh…Peace isn’t a place or a season to land in, it’s a Person to be in.
God made us for himself—God didn’t make me for myself. He meant for us to see him and live with him and enjoy him and draw our life from him. He meant for us to dwell in conscious awareness of his presence as an actual experience, not as an idea we hope for.
C.S. Lewis said that, “we are far too easily pleased.”
Maybe we’re too easily pleased because we don’t realize that we love what we have more than what we need—even if what we have isn’t what we want it to be. I think we’re often satisfied with crumbs, when there is whole feast to be eaten. Our lives are lived just enough on the outside, with one foot in enough to be associated, to see God’s presence from a distance—but with our other foot out so we don’t have to give up anything, be inconvenienced, or changed.
But God meant that we should live our whole lives there—that we should press on to know him (Hosea 6:3), that our eyes should be fixed on him (Colossians 3:2).
God removed the veil that was used to keep us out of his presence—he tore it right down with his finger, and we no longer have to wait in different rooms of the temple before we can get in and get close to Him. (cf. Exodus 26 and Matthew 27:51)
There is nothing there keeping us out; nothing there preventing us from dwelling right where he is, and yet we still often fail to enter there and live.
What is keeping us from his fullness, keeping us at a distance, hushing our prayers and tying down our hands?
Hebrews 12:2 says that we must “ . . . throw off everything that hinders us, and the sin that so easily entangles us.” We must, “Put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5), because God didn’t make us for ourselves.
“Cut and tear and burn and destroy and spare nothing of the old flesh, take away that veil from before your face. God has taken away the one he had up to shut you out. Now you take the one you had up to shut him out. Tear, rend, cut and burn until there is nothing left of the old veil that shuts us out from his presence.” -A.W. Tozer
We’ve sewn up for ourselves a different veil that shuts out exactly what we’re restless for, and until it gets torn and thrown off and put to death, we will only see shadows.
We’ve sewn this veil up with threads of self, and shame, and sin. This veil is our earthly nature living on, unjudged and uncrucified. It’s the things we are ashamed of, it’s the things we let go unacknowledged; it’s our phones, our wallets, our screens. We must ask God to show us what these things are…and insist that he do this work in us, and he will. It will hurt, but he will do it.
“There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure, because to touch us here is to touch where we feel pain. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free.” – A. W. Tozer
The cross is painful, but effective. Once it’s done its work in us, there will be a resurrection—and the pain of losing, will be forgotten for the joy of gaining the actual spiritual experience of living in the presence of the living God.
I pray that we would remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1), so we need not be afraid to ask him to come and enter in. I pray that we would learn how to die to ourselves, so we can be resurrected into newness of life. And I pray that we would press on to know him, and to live in daily experience with him on this earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), so that we would be accustomed to the glory when we enter heaven to dwell with him there.