I’m really experiencing a “settled” feeling within my soul in the past couple days. Perhaps you’ve noticed the writings of the blog during the last few days…weeks, but the Spirit of God has been leading me to this place of “green meadows, still waters, and renewed strength” (Psalm 23). I feel “liberated” as Catherine Doherty writes about in her wonderful spiritual classic Poustinia.
“I have been liberated by God; it’s as if I were traveling through the cosmos of the Lord all by myself. I see how everything that comes across my path has a reason in God’s plan for being there. The gift of discernment has become like a sixth sense. Life used to be heavy and difficult. Now it is light and natural.”
I’m so grateful for the close relationship I have with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. I’m so thankful for this liberating experience. I also like the way that Doherty illustrates this liberation and relationship with the Trinity. She says, “When you enter the poustinia (a prayer pilgrimage founded on silence, solitude, and contemplation) you enter the orbit of God. You hold on to his hand.” My life, at this juncture, may not be that of a poustinik in the classical terms, but I feel very much as though I have embraced the spirit of poustinia.
I love the faithfulness of God to his promises. I love how God loves us. I love that he so wants to be in wholly restored relationship with his people (of which we are). It’s amazing to me the fullness of joy we are capable of experiencing when we turn ourselves completely to God. When we seek him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, the fabric of our temporal reality tears down the middle, just like the temple curtain did in the Holy of Holies when Christ died upon the cross. When our temporal reality is shattered, we are able to peer into the dimension of the spiritual… we are able to experience in our soul, the substance of our faith… we cohabitate and partner with the Holy Spirit of God and become one with the Trinity. A-Maze-Ing.
I was reading this morning and was reaffirmed (yet again) by the promises of God to his people in these following words:
If you listen to what I tell you and follow my ways and do whatever I consider to be right, and if you obey my decrees and commands…then I will always be with you (1 Kings 11:38).
“I will always be with you” Yes! I love this. The thing that I love so much about this is that it isn’t just words. I’m not just pointing to a book or to a scroll; this promise is being experienced first-hand and in-person in my life. No doubt the journey gets difficult and lonely at times; the vision gets blurry and the path is dimly lit during some seasons…but God is here—with me—always. Not once has God abandoned me or left me wanting. Not once has he forsaken me or led me in a direction that was not for my good. “I will always be with you.” The caveat, if there is one, is that God expects for us to listen, follow, and obey Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The liberation and freedom that comes with this level of trust and obedience to His Ways is totally incomprehensible to the human mind. Only with the mind infused with the Spirit of God can we realize the freedom, joy, and peace that surpasses all understanding. “I will always be with you.”
Lest there be any confusion, Richard Foster does a great service to us with his explanation of the role of God’s work in this process. Our role is to partner in submission, surrender, and obedience. We cannot will ourselves to be transformed, renewed, or reborn; it is completely the work of God in our surrendered selves. Foster writes the following:
As we consider the transformation of the human heart, we need to keep two central realities clearly in mind. To begin with, we simply cannot program our own heart. We cannot program anyone else’s heart. There is a whole theology that stands behind these statements. I will not go into extreme detail here; I will just state it in this flatfooted manner: You are not in charge of the transformation of your heart. Neither am I. This is God’s domain, and you and I are utterly dependent on God to accomplish the work of heart transformation. Those certainly are good things to do. But the truth is we do not make transformation happen. God does.
Second, the human heart itself is part of our problem. We are, each and every one of us, a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honest and falsity, openness and guile. God knows our heart in ways we can never know. Supernatural abilities are needed to untangle the mess. God is the only one who can separate the true from the false. Only God can purify the motives of the heart. -Sanctuary of the Soul by Richard Foster
The LORD cares for the lives of the godly and in the days of famine they shall have enough. Our steps are directed by the LORD. He strengthens those in whose way he delights. If they stumble, they shall not fall headlong, for the LORD holds them by the hand (Psalm 37:19, 23-24). Here am I, Lord, I’ve come to do your will. Here am I, Lord, in your presence I am still. O God, I thank you for the gift of yourself and your promise to me; “I will always be with you.” Amen.