“[W]e grow in our knowledge of Christ-with-us by, first of all, constant expectation of him in the place where we are, wherever that may be. ‘The sacrament of the present moment,’ as it is sometimes called, is from the human side nothing but the invocation, expectation, and receptivity of God’s presence and activity where we are and in what we are doing at any given time. Then we steadily grow in graceful interactions with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They gradually take up all of our life into their trinitarian life (John 17:21–24).
Among the many misunderstandings Jesus had to counteract in his teaching was the one that held the kingdom to be some gigantic event in some special place. This was human thinking about human kingdoms, which always fit that description. He was constantly faced with people who wanted to know when the kingdom of God was coming. When is the big commotion? He patiently replied that the kingdom of God was not that kind of thing. It was simply God reigning, governing. It is not a special event you could see happening over here or possibly over there. ‘Now look,’ he said, ‘the kingdom of God is right here among you’ (Luke 17:20–21, paraphrase). His main sermon line was: ‘Get a new thought! The kingdom of the heavens is available to you from right where you are!’ (Matt. 4:17, paraphrase).
from Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge by Dallas Willard
One of the greatest temptations in the spiritual life is to always be expecting God’s activity, but in some undefined future setting. I love the idea of the sacrament of the present moment, that the kingdom of God is here and now because God is actively working here and now.
Where you are right now is where God wants you to be and where God wants to use you in this very moment. And God specializes in using people just like you.
“Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.
Waiting for God is an active, alert – yes, joyful – waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes” (Henri Nouwen).
And so we wait.
Not in a passive sort of way, like a junior high girl waiting by the phone for her crush to call or a job-seeker waiting for a call from one of the places to which he’s applied.
We prepare as we wait. We anticipate as we wait. We hope as we wait. And we love God and each other well as we wait.
Waiting never gets any easier, but it’s always worth it. Taking shortcuts almost never is. Just ask Abraham and Sarah.
Waiting in faith and expectancy is a way of saying that God’s timing is better than mine and the gain in the end is better than any immediate gratification I’m giving up in the present.
I’m not saying anything new. In fact, this almost feels like a re-run of sorts.
Whatever you’re waiting for from God is worth whatever time it takes. Trust the heart of your Father who knows best what to give and when to give it. Trust that the best is still yet to come and that it is still coming.
Just as surely as Advent follows into Christmas, so will faithful waiting follow into joy.
I have the crud, so I invited a guest blogger to share his thoughts. Well, I copied and pasted from something C. S. Lewis wrote. It blew my fuzzy, hay-fevered mind. I hope it blows your mind as well.
“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God.
But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him.
But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.
You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal.
So that the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kinds of life—what I called Zoe or spiritual life: he is being pulled into God, by God, while still remaining himself” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
Praying starts and ends with God. Sure, I bring my needs and wants to God, but sometimes there are no words. Sometimes, I need to know that God inside of me is praying to the God above me through the God in Christ who is beside me.
“In my own life I well know how hard it is for me to trust that I am loved, and to trust that the intimacy I most crave is there for me. I most often live as if I have to earn love, do something noteworthy, and then perhaps I might get something in return.
This attitude touches the whole question of what is called in the spiritual life, the “first love.” Do I really believe that I am loved first, independent of what I do or what I accomplish? This is an important question because as long as I think that what I most need I have to earn, deserve and collect by hard work, I will never get what I most need and desire, which is a love that cannot be earned, but that is freely given.
Thus, my return is my willingness to renounce such thoughts and to choose to live more and more from my true identity as a cherished child of God” (Henri Nouwen).
I think that sums up my feelings rather perfectly.
My car windows were frosted over this morning. It was that cold.
Normally, I would have taken about two minutes to scrape off the ice, but I decided earlier this year to get rid of my window scraper because it was broken. A decision that in hindsight wasn’t the smartest one I’ve ever made.
So I drove to work with the windows frosted over and the defroster on high, hoping the ice would thaw before I ran into any real traffic. Not my most shining moment ever. And I made it safely with no incidents.
Winter is a good reminder of the spiritual life. At some point, all of us go into winter mode– a kind of season of waiting where there’s no outward change or growth. It seems like everything is dead and nothing will ever come back, but this is the season of preparation for the spring yet to come.
Sometimes, God puts us through seasons of waiting. Seasons of pruning and refining. The process can be painful and seem to last forever, but don’t lose heart. Your spring is coming.
And yes, I’m going to Advance Auto Parts and buy a window scraper. Soon.
As of my last doctor’s appointment, I’ve lost 26 pounds. Then I went on vacation and gained 20 back.
Actually, I think I’m still fairly close to my pre-vacation weight. Why am I telling you this?
Because all it took for me was giving up carbonated beverages and committing to a regular exercise regimen.
It will be 6 months tomorrow since I’ve had my last soda. Or as we in the south call all soft drinks, a coke. I do crave the taste from time to time, but I don’t miss them (and I feel way better).
I’ve been alternating jogging and bike riding lately at least 4 times a week. Regardless of whether my stomach is as flat as I want it to be, I feel better and I’m in better shape physically than I’ve been in for a long, long time.
It didn’t take a major overhaul of my lifestyle. All it took was changing one habit at a time.
I think that goes for the spiritual life as well. You don’t have to immediately adapt the monastic lifestyle where you’re up at 4 am to pray for 4 hours. You don’t have to start by memorizing the entire Gospel of John. You just have to start somewhere.
I do believe that discipline in one area bleeds into disciplines in other areas. What I mean is that if you’re disciplined when it comes to physical things, it’s much easier to develop spiritual disciplines. It’s all interconnected.
I don’t say these things to say “Look at me and how awesome I am,” but for you to see that if I can do it, so can you. So can anybody.