I feel urged to ask this question again. Do you realize the life that is available to you in Christ? With Christ? I ask myself this question. On a Monday. When I just want more sleep.
Or after an unsettling conversation.
Or at the end of a long day when I realize that when I thought I was being totally unhurried and calm with all the little challenges and delays of the day, I realize that what I was actually doing was compartmentalizing all those setbacks into a space in my soul that would inevitably burst into a toddler sized tantrum. Like a two year old who is melting down and while to some uninvolved observers it looks like he is crying because his mom told him, “No candy,” the mother knows that this is a pressure valve being released because the day started too fast, and he didn’t get the cup he wanted, and he doesn’t like the way those socks feel on his feet, and the store is way too loud and full of unfamiliar sounds and He JUST WANTS A PIECE OF CANDY! Honestly. A piece of candy is all I want sometimes. Ok – a family size bag of peanut butter m&ms but you get the picture.
So when my dear husband is staring at me dumbfounded at the fit I just threw, he has learned to stop and ask the important question: “Where is this coming from?”
It goes both ways. No, my husband does not throw fits. But I can sense and see when he is unsettled and frustrated. And I have learned to ask as well, “Where is this coming from?”
And when we trace the thoughts and emotions through to their origin, where we end up almost always is this: I need some time alone with God.
I say almost always because I do want to leave some space for this; and I find myself quoting Oswald Chambers again: “Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.” Yes, sometimes we just need to take that mood and, as I often tell my prone to melancholy five year old, kick it in the booty and out of your heart.
But I’m not talking about a mood here. I’m talking about a soul that is starving for life. A branch that is longing to stay connected to the vine.
Why is it so important anyway? Quiet and presence turns our hearts back towards what is true, when the frustration and constant movement of life speaks a million things that aren’t true. When we believe things that aren’t true, we begin to speak things that aren’t true, and eventually we will act on things that are not true. Quiet brings us back to THE Truth.
Our days are busy. And sweet, strong, passionate, Christian Miles NEEDS times of quiet with me. He has taken the middle child seat in our family and while we try to be very mindful and intentional that our children don’t succumb to the negative messages attached to their birth order, some days get away from us. On one such day, Christian was visibly struggling with Baby Joy. While we all laughed and delighted as she crawled about the living room, exploring her environment and picking up everything in her path to taste and see if it’s good for eating, Christian Miles scurried around gathering up ALL the toys and promptly placed them under his bottom, sitting like a mama bird, protecting its nest. Elena Joy laughed and waved her hands excitedly in front of Christian. He stared back at her rather grumpily. My mom gently reminded Christian that Baby Joy loved him and was so excited and he should really share some toys with her because, “Don’t you love your sister?”
His response, “I just want to kick her in the face.”
He just let that thought fly right out. And in a way, I’m glad he did. Because it gave me the opportunity to speak to his heart and let him discover the truth.
You see I know my son. I know that he loves his little sister. I have the privilege of seeing moments of sweetness and affection between them that no one else sees. And I know that he does not want to kick his sister in the face. I also know that he needs to realize that isn’t what he wants so that he doesn’t act on it and receive the consequences.
So I take some time to interact with him. Baby sister is nearby. We talk about trains and toys and sharing and how much I love him.
At the end of our time, he is talking with his sister and offering toys to her and patting her on the head – NOT kicking her in the face!
It’s a juvenile example but the lesson is the same: We need quiet time with our Father.
I’m very sorry to say that the majority of us have been sold short on the abundant, joyous, life that is available in Christ. We have come to believe that what we experience on Sunday mornings is all there is. We try to live our best life from what we receive there. But honestly, how many of you can even remember what the preacher said last Sunday? We flit from message to message, Sunday to Sunday, devotional to devotional, Bible plan to Bible plan, and we have utterly forsaken the act of “working out our salvation” and “the effective working of the Word in us.”
When is the last time you took a scripture, or the preacher’s sermon, or a devotion, and sat down with it and said, “Ok Father. Teach me to live from this truth. Show me how to work this out in my daily life.” And then sat very still and waited on the Lord to come and instruct your heart.
We are called to be disciples and make disciples. To grow into mature believers. How many people in your life and church would you name as mature believers? Yikes. This is sounding harsh. And that’s not my heart. I strongly desire all of those I love, all of those that I am on this journey with to take hold of what Christ has offered. Constant relationship and communication with Him. Abiding in Him.
Do you realize the life that is available to you in Christ?
How do we abide in Him? Well, for one, we let His words abide in us. How do we do that?
Meditate on His words. Take a few scriptures, shut yourself into a quiet room, and sit with Him. When I was teaching a girls group, I would tell them on a weekly basis, “Read your Bible and pray Everyday! It’s as simple as that!” To quote Dallas Willard, author of books such as The Divine Conspiracy and Spirit of the Disciplines, “It’s very simple. But then you have to do it.”
Here is where discipline comes in. And I (personally) have to walk closely with God here or discipline will get in the way and become the main thing. But discipline is necessary. So we bring discipline into our life with God as if discipline were a dear friend, always pointing us in the right direction. We intentionally make time in every day to sit alone with the Lord. Whether it is to meditate on scripture or to become aware of His presence in us and with us. This is different than the prayers we pray bringing Him our requests for the day, our prayers for loved ones, our concerns. This is intimacy. It’s quiet.
It’s abiding. It is how we grow and bear fruit.
Am I bearing fruit? How is my heart? Is it resting in Him? Am I easily troubled? Is my attention divided and distracted? Am I listening to talk that is not my business? Am I participating in talk that is not my business? What am I thinking about? Where do my thoughts most often come to rest? Finances? Friendships? Take a moment to ask yourself this question: What captivates my thoughts?
We have to take an honest look at our inner world. We have to let God in there. When we refuse, we live with the consequences. When we relinquish, Jesus comes with more kindness, mercy, and grace than we can imagine! And a beautiful thing happens. By no great effort of our own, we begin to bear fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. We begin to live the life that Christ promised. With Him. Abiding in Him.
The great secret that Paul spoke of becomes reality. “Christ in us, the hope of glory!” The hope of not being offended, the hope of forgiving, the hope of freedom from addiction, the hope of joy, the hope of the promise!
I’m not writing this from a glamorous place. I’m writing this in sweatpants with a baby in my arms. My quiet time space is a corner in a bedroom. Look at Paul! He was writing from a jail cell! This life is available!
But it’s not available apart from spending extended time in His presence, letting His word work itself out in your daily life and interactions.
This is a slow pace of life and heart and soul. It’s so against the flow of the world – in fact it’s a completely different flow. It’s a different path. It’s a narrow road.
I desire to live without hurry in my heart. I desire to look at the little delays and setbacks of any given day and let it go! I want to truly let the waves that would have rocked me at one point, be the waves I walk on now. I want to forget what is behind and press on. I want to kick bad moods in the booty!
It’s not perfect. But we’re not aiming for perfection. We’re aiming for connection. In between the changing diapers, and ABCs, Story times, dirty laundry, rocking babies, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I’m simply sharing with you in the best way that I know how that There Is More and it’s more than enough and it’s so so good.
John 15:4-5 Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Chambers, Oswald. “Get Your Daily Dose of Wisdom.” My Utmost For His Highest Is There Good in Temptation Comments, utmost.org/classic/the-realm-of-the-real-classic/.
Willard, Dallas. “The Slow and Steady.” Become Good Soil, Become Good Soil, 15 Nov. 2017, podcast.ransomedheart.com.s3.amazonaws.com/bgspodcast/BGS_Podcast_033_The_Slow_And_Steady_Dallas_Willard_Michael_Cusick.mp3.