Thursday, July 11, 2013

Starting Out

These last six months have been the best of my life. Hands down.

Nope, there’s been no happy event or change of circumstance. That’s the first thing you probably thought. I might have too. We associate well-being with contentment; good things first, then well-being.

Actually, things are the same as they were six months ago. Not that my life is horrible or anything. But we all have uncertainties, the things we wish would change.

And BECAUSE I’ve found something amidst all that, it feels much weightier, more legitimate. It’d feel cheaper if it happened because of a good season. That’s too easy. When it happens outside of one – that’s a big deal, because what if it’s repeatable?

I was raised a Christian (don't tune out at this point - just stick with me for a second), but until this year, if I’m honest, my faith has often struggled to be more than just information. True information, awesome information – Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for me – but even the best facts are prone to dryness. Like learning the internal dynamics of the sun but never going outside to feel the sunshine.

I’d often hear Christian musicians like David Crowder or Chris Tomlin speaking much more deeply of God. They’d belt out lyrics like “His love is deeper than the sea” or “My heart turns violently inside of my chest” – not doctrine, but echoes of the emotional truths of the Psalms. And a small, guilty part of my mind would go, “What are they talking about?” I was grateful for Jesus, never doubted my faith for a moment, had quick bursts of emotion now and then. But this? This was passion, sustained fascination. Mere information never inspires that. Even though I’m a worship leader myself and am exposed to such lyrics all the time, I often felt a low-level anxiety: “What are they experiencing that I’m not?”

It’s not like the information wasn’t important. It’s about how we live in response to it. And my long-running habit of focusing on my own life and struggles – the seemingly up-front and tangible stuff – was making God feel distant. Irrelevant. I didn’t understand the disconnect then, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a good place to be.

Last January, I switched focus. (It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution – wouldn’t have lasted if it were). I started meditating on the character of God. It was the only way I knew how to “fix my eyes on him”, as the Scripture goes. I knew something had to change.

The craziest stuff started happening. I started hearing him speak - words, phrases, truths that I knew couldn’t have come from me, revealed internally on a much greater scale than before. Small moments, gifts and favor, that has been escaping my notice. The Bible gained more vividness, more real-time relevance. I felt a growing steadiness and calm about things, started learning how to pray my way back into it. I started feeling watched over, valued, taught, even pursued.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)

One of Christianity’s richest treasures is the inner peace and fortitude triggered when one starts understanding God as he really is. I had no hope of starting that perfecting process as long as my focus remained elsewhere.

I’ve started a blog to try and unpack all this for you (and to keep it real for myself). I can’t explain a process in one sitting. There were many components to this shift, tons of little turns, and it's nowhere near being over. I'm a long ways from being any kind of expert.

Some believers never experience this with God at all; their faith remains just facts. If you’re not a believer, this stuff might sound hokey and conveniently experiential. I challenge you to simply follow along without pressure, merely an open mind.

Because something about this is very real. It's not just vague serenity - it's real-time, conscious, decoupled from circumstances. Believing in Jesus was never intended to be just a collection of facts. It's a relationship he wants. Words, moments, experiences. Learning all that the sunshine actually does.

This could get good.

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