Sunday, May 09, 2010

coasting

Do you ever feel like your spirit is on vacation? Or a bit neglected because you are concentrating on other parts of your life? For a few weeks now, my spirit has been very quiet. Don't misunderstand me: I am not sad. I am content, and things in life are generally good. However, the passion to pursue God and connect with him are not there to the degree that I know they can be and have been. My prayers are short, and my thoughts wander easily. More than once I have found myself pausing to make tea in the middle of reading the Bible and never returned to the words on the page. Why is this?

When I am overwhelmed and constantly challenged by the tasks and relationships of life, I find it much easier to come to God. Because I really, really need him. I recognise that he is very present and near. My spirit is ever quick to turn to him and listen, to respond and engage. The nattering of worry, fear, insecurity, and stress all serve to drive me to God. He is the only one who makes it possible to deny these thieving, crippling voices any longterm space in my life.

The enemy of my relationship with God is not turmoil or trouble; it is mediocrity. It is developing a plan for the next few months that makes sense and assures me that I am really quite capable; I can relax a bit. It is riding the wave of positive feedback and good grades; yeah, I'm getting pretty good at this stuff. It is a pleasant assurance that life is moving along nicely, and I have done well thus far; I can coast for a time and take it easy. This mediocrity is different from gratitude, a virtue which positions God as the subject instead of myself. Real gratitude has an energising effect instead of a numbing zombie quality. Gratitude fills me up with joyful solidity instead of merely releasing pent-up tension and leaving me with nothing of substance.

The line between these two is one that I have often found hard to draw neatly. Unplugging in order to relax is not the same as engaging in the worship of God (gratitude at full throttle). The first causes the spirit to retreat, while the second breathes life into it through companionship with the giver of all things good. The first brings a vibrant peacefulness and serenity. The second is a cheap substitute for rest. One is the soul buoyant in the life of God. The other is inactivity that bears no fruit. Taking a break is not the same as resting in God. Just as the heart cannot take a break from beating, so my spirit cannot slip into neutral without dying a little. I am not talking about spiritual activities or works. It is not a matter of trying harder or working up some spiritual gumption. And I am not talking about balance. In fact, middle-road ambivalence often likes to masquerade as balance. I am simply talking about knowing where my source is. Or rather, Who my source it. And it is not me, nor anything that I do.

"I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You're not cold, you're not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You're stale. You're stagnant. You make me want to vomit. You brag, 'I'm rich, I've got it made, I need nothing from anyone,' oblivious that in fact you're a pitiful, blind beggar, threadbare and homeless." from Revelation 3, The Message.

Yes, I am indeed blind to my own gigantic need of God. Yes, I need to be a beggar once more, relying on the gracious generosity of God instead of any ignorant assessments based on the status quo.

This is a picture of a serene lookout point on Smiley Mountain. It was hard work to get up there, but worth every step.

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