Monday, June 2, 2008

Instant Christian, Just Add Water?

Here I sit, in my morning place where I meet with God, and my thoughts are terribly jumbled. I am at war with my culture, it seems. Our pastor spoke last night on a widening gap between the church and the culture in America. He is correct about the gap, but I also see a widening gap between the words of the Bible and the church as represented in America. That is the gap that troubles me more.

It would make sense that a breech should exist between Christ's church and the materialistic and increasingly fast-paced culture we live in. What does not make sense to me is the shortcuts we see in modern Christianity. We have become a culture of frantically active, instantly gratified, deadline-driven folk. As Christians, we want to drag the lost to the cross, celebrate briefly when they see it with naked eyes, then shove them out the door to service. This has bothered me since the beginning of my walk and I have only just put words to it. It's true that I am just as guilty, just as willing to serve up a single-serving Gospel message and then expect that to fill the wadi of the soul enough to prompt the overflow of service. In truth, I think too many of us take occasional sips of the Living Water rather than drinking our fill and allowing Him to well up within us. I ran across a quote that gave wings to my thoughts on this matter:

"If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. For a canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus communicates, without loss to itself, its superabundant water. In the Church at the present day, we have many canals, few reservoirs."--Bernard of Clairvaux

That is it, precisely. There are many toddlers in the faith fumbling about, teaching others from their little and quickly burning out their spiritual energy. There are few who are willing to take the time to drink deeply of our Lord and quench their own inner thirst first. That is what I rail against--this battle inside my heart to do what is accepted in our culture. I have strained against my Lord's loving arms, "Let me run, Abba! Let me serve as the others do!" He has lovingly allowed me to trot off only to see that my own legs simply will not carry me as far as I believed they will. He lets me fall to see how young I am, how weak, how little I know. Then He takes me back in His arms and says, "Not yet. I have much to teach you yet, Little One. Service is nothing to Me if you do not obey." Ahhh, isn't that exactly what I tell my own children? "The best help you can give me is to obey my words." I say it, then I ignore it from my own Father. Foolish child that I am!

These things first began to bother me as I read through the Bible again and again. Not a single one of God's "superheros" came out of their very first experience with Him and conquered the world! No, to the contrary, they communed with Him, waited on His timing, loved Him, and learned from Him. Abram waited 25 years for his promised son. Moses spent 40 years in exile before receiving his commission from God. Joshua was first Moses' servant for unknown years before he became a leader. David was not anointed and immediately crowned--he faced years of uncertainty if his life would even be spared! Years of pressing into God further, trusting in Him... Paul--arguably the greatest evangelist who ever lived--also had a time apart before the greatest part of his ministry began. We know that after the 3 days of fasting and praying following his dramatic encounter with Christ on the Damascus road, he "immediately ... proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." (Acts 9:20) Recall, however, that Paul was rigorously trained in Jewish law and tradition. He was already an authority on Scripture as it existed at the time! He was not a new convert whose only previous brush with the Word of God was seeing John 3:16 on a highway billboard. And even he, with all his zeal and all his knowledge was sent to Tarsus by the brothers of the faith. We don't hear from Paul again in Acts until Chapter 11:25 when Barnabus went to Tarsus to look for him. We know from Galatians that the interval could have been as much as 14 years (see Galatians 1:13-2:1). For Barnabus, it was no matter of dropping Paul an email and then hopping a bus or plane to head over to 34 Tarsus Drive. There was a good deal of leg work, asking questions, and certainly a great deal of time involved in finding him. I believe that God used this time to eradicate the remnants of Pharisee within Paul and to draw him in to closer fellowship with Himself. Paul was the first modern Christian, perhaps, champing at the bit until the Father reined him in and caused him to rest, reflect, and ripen.

So I am in a place of seeking now. I am learning to rest in Him, be with Him throughout my day. No more excuses that I don't have time... He gave me this family and I am attempting to make every toy I pick up, every t-shirt I fold, every dish I wash an act of worship. I am diligent to seek Him in the morning before the kids are up, even when I don't feel like it. On those days fatigue overtakes me and I sleep in, I snatch a moment to read a Psalm and pray, or I do it along with the kids. More and more frequently, I do both. I try to remember that He is with me everywhere I go. I make an effort to talk with Him about the joys, frustrations... even the temptations and sins I stumble on as I go about my day. I meditate on His word, sometimes in quiet, sometimes amidst the chaos of family life.

Do I find that I fit in nicely to this world with all this? Well, no. No, not at all. I have never seen Survivor or American Idol. I don't know what music is popular, nor do I know if my clothes are in fashion. What I do know is this: I can not possibly keep up with this world and allow God to stretch my heart in the ways I feel He desires for me. I can't give in to the temptation to look like a good little Christian and be visibly active in my church at the expense of my relationship to Him. Of course, once I relinquished that desire to "look good," He opened doors of service for me that are less visible--how glorious to obey! However, before I can afford to be busy, I must first develop the habit of continual awareness, continuous prayer, constant communion with Him. Jesus was able to balance an incredibly hectic pace in service to others with His relationship to the Father, but then sin never separated Christ from the Father until that horrible moment on the cross. And even Jesus didn't start His ministry from the cradle but took time to mature into a physical man. My whole point is, if our Lord took the time to mature, what on earth makes us think we can do otherwise?