My season of solitude

I just want to warn you up front, this blog post might be long. I feel like I have a lot of ground to cover and I want to make sure I cover all of my bases. I would encourage you to read the whole thing though.

I last updated this blog at the end of January, just over 2 months ago. The last time I wrote it was only the 4th entry I’ve shared on this new blog after deleting the old one while in the midst of the worst emotional crash I had experienced in years. On January 31st when I last wrote I was hurting, I was broken, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with life and I wasn’t sure who I was as a Christian, I was not entirely sure I knew how to hear God’s voice and I seriously considered stepping down from the leadership team at my church.

The last time I wrote on this blog I spoke about idols that I was creating in my life. I admitted that I had many, I wrote that after watching a sermon by Tim Keller called Counterfeit Gods. Listening to that sermon stirred something in me, something important, something life giving. It was time to make some much needed changes in my life but instead of setting out to do a bunch of work what I really felt was a call to come into a place of rest. More importantly a place of solitude.

In Hosea 2, God, through the prophet Hosea speaks of leading Israel(using the image of a woman) into the desert.

14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond[c] as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.

16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
no longer will their names be invoked.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the creatures that move along the ground.
Bow and sword and battle
I will abolish from the land,
so that all may lie down in safety.
19 I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
20 I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.

So as we approached Lent, I felt a need to come away. To step away from some of the things of this world that were trapping my attention and to create some space in my life where I could hear God. To not suppose beforehand what he may or may not say but to wait expectantly for his words and to have faith that they would come. At first I wasn’t entirely sure as to what this would look like but I knew that social media(Facebook, twitter, blogging etc) was one of the things that really held a grip on me so it was only natural that that was the first branch to throw in the fire. Listening to music during my commutes to and from work was also a natural place to create space. I wasn’t sure what this would look like but I started on Ash Wednesday and I can say without reservation that God indeed showed up.

What also showed up though was a metric ton of anxiety, which I didn’t really expect but more about that in a bit.

I spent a lot of my time in reflection, prayer, reading and listening to sermons. I started with Brennon Manning and I read Abba Father all the way through. It was in those pages that I heard God speaking. He told me that not only did he love me, not only did he care for me but he also liked me. He was fond of me. He enjoyed me and loved seeing me joyous. This was a major breakthrough for me I’ve never felt I had a deep relationship with The Father, I never felt like I was good enough. For someone who speaks an awful lot about grace I began to see exactly what that rich grace was and how it plays out in my own life.

I also(and this will surprise some) have been following the latest sermon series at Mars Hill which is all about our identity in Christ. I began to understand that God is not only the God I read about in the bible, nor is he only the God that I will meet someday in heaven but he is the God of my present circumstance. In the book Practicing the Presence of God Brother Lawrence talks about knowing God in ALL things, not only the times of prayer and worship but in the mundane tasks of life. That at all times he was in the presence of God and he could rest in that presence. I too have been seeing this in my own life more and more.

I was given a book by my therapist called Celebration off Discipline by Richard Foster. There was a lot to unpack from this book but the things that really spoke to me were the discipline of simplicity, to not be so occupied with stuff and prestige and also the discipline off celebration which spoke to great length about joy which I have come to learn is not the same thing as happiness.  I, like I am sure many others, have thought that you can know that Christ loves you by how well your life is going. That’s not where peace and joy come from, what I have learned is that when focusing on Jesus and drawing near to him that peace he gives you can help you through anything,

The best teacher for that type of peace, at least for me was anxiety.  Through this fast I’ve fought on and off with some pretty debilitating anxiety. It;s interesting how it comes up when you are working on spiritual disciplines but I believe it bubbled to the surface because it was something that Jesus wanted to address. I have come to recognize that my anxiety, even the most debilitating forms of it, isn’t the enemy I’ve once believed it to be but it is rather a signpost, a red flag simply letting me know that my focus is in the wrong place. Once I remember that the anxious thoughts and panic subside.

Through this fast I have grown in spiritual maturity, I have also found a deep rooted peace that I have never understood before. It’s something that I have looked for all of my life and I have never found it until now. I’ve traveled many roads and tasted many flavors of philosophy and religion,  I have drank deeply from the cup of hedonism and nothing has ever given the peace that I sought.

I learned about Buddhism and it gave me no peace.

I studied science and it provided no peace

I studied near death experiences and new though philosophy.

I’ve read Jung and Campbell and neither could provide a rest from my anxiety

Self help books were no good, Zen Meditation did nothing

Even studying Christianity gave me no peace. The only thing that has provided me relief from my deepest darkest anxieties about my own broken life and this messed up sin filled world was Jesus. Drawing near him, sitting in his presence, admitting my fears and hearing his still small voice declare to me

“I love you, but not only do I love you but I LIKE you, I am FOND of you.”

And if you’re not yet a Christian, or if you are but you have never rested in the presence of Jesus and heard him declare this to you than all I can tell you is you’re missing out. There is NOTHING LIKE the peace of God in this world. Nothing that this life can offer you can sustain you or fill you like that. Not fame, fortune, not a good job or great music or good food or strong drink. Not video games or sex or a spouse or even having your own kids. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, there is nothing wrong with enjoying those things, but they will not provide lasting peace. Only Jesus can do that.

 

 

 

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