As Present as the red velvet couch I sit on.
As pervasive as the yummy bacon smell from the California BLT’s.
A time so sweet it awakened me last night at 3 in the morning with HOPE. Desire. Longing. Something I haven’t felt for months.
A longing for Jesus Present in the chaos.
I remember. I had been afraid of how another baby would put stress on our vulnerable little world: a new church, a four year old, a two year old. I asked a friend how she handled her third and she who usually chats with a subtlety admired by the English, looked at me, bloated fifty pounds, and said: “It rocked my world.” I took in my breath. My world was about to be rocked…and I needed Jesus. Jesus, strong. Present. Real.
So I started fasting everything but LeAnn Payne’s Healing Presence, Listening Prayer, Real Presence and Brother Lawrence’s short book, “Practicing the Presence of God.” I knew from Revelations that God’s goal was to make his home among his people. (Revelations 21:3) So I begged, “No more theories, God. I want to breathe You in and out with my every sharp intake…any less and we will drown.”
He filled my desperation with Himself and it lasted for three months of eating, drinking, sleeping, listening to God Himself.
It was if I had crawled up in that stern on Lake Galilee, storm raging, boat taking on water, but my head was on His heart, ka thump, ka thump, ka thump and I was rooted in peace.
The ancient liturgical prayer from the 100s, “Come Lord Jesus” was the thought that wound its way through every other, commanding them to obey. I’m waking up hungry again.
Just a few weeks ago, I was living the opposite.
Empty. Apathetic. Tired.
For someone who was searching for the Presence of God, I grieved. God felt farther away than He ever had been and I knew from experience that this had less to do with Him and more to do with barriers I had erected. I just didn’t know as yet what those barriers were.
Then, we as a family crashed…money wise. The boat started taking on huge waves. Fear squeezed…into a 36 hour migraine.
But it was Fear that led to the crying out. “Jesus, don’t you know we are drowning?”
Fear then became the map. I began stumbling around my inner landscape finding altars to consumerism and greed I never knew existed. MORE was the chant. I want. I want. I want…and then, “I deserve” the easy liturgy.
Capitalism had moved into the Bread of Life’s territory and I was seeking stale crumbs from the empty.
Ouch. It is hard to stare sin in the face.
I went underground, clearing brush with repentance. Carrying a pick axe of the Word. Hard, grunting work. I feared clearing the surface and then watching the weedy altars rebuild themselves next week.
The roots went deep and I would need stronger stuff to kill the selfishness off. After repentance, after using the power of scripture, I had no idea where to get that kind of spiritual pesticide.
Despair crept in.
Hope only began to rise as I read, “Man does not live on bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” I learned a long time ago that you can’t just empty, you have to replace it with Life. Nature abhors a vacuum. Could it be that my hunger for more, my hunger for shiny things could be reassigned from stuff to WORD, alive, warm and nourishing?
I began to read Psalm 119 ravenous and the trip became a feast:
The weeds of selfishness ran deep and cried out the promise, “I will walk about in freedom for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45) Freedom from consuming? I wondered…what would that even look like?
My painful Self-indulgence, I knew could only be replaced by eternal treasure: “You are my Portion, Lord.” (Psalm 119:57)
A short read later and Verse 133b struck me fierce, “Let no sin rule over me” and yes, I had been slave to that which I have worshiped. And I could no longer serve two masters.
Then, verse 147 would show me the next step: “I rise before dawn and cry for help, I have put my hope in Your word.” Ahhhh, here was the key. Crying out. Jesus, where are you? Jesus come into the storm! The crying out would continue tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow morning as repentance and repetition comes before transformation when the greed is this entrenched.
Monday, my friend prayed over me at the prayer clinic using the Lazarus’ resurrection story, (John 11) and I, still despairing of sin’s entanglement heard, “Summer, come out” and resurrection life began spreading into the cracks and crevices. When the sin is entrenched, I have found that some of my best weaponry is my friends’ swords”Confess your sins one to another and you will be healed (James 5:16)” has become the key to victory.
I had to take a break from writing…the battle was too fierce to make sense of…to share. I had to hunker down.
A few weeks later and rest and new life have begun to mingle and the strength to fight with budgets and bills has built and I’ve started crunching numbers for fun. Yep, you heard that right. Fun.
I’ve begun reading 7- An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by the hilarious Jen Hatmaker. How does she make something so painful as fasting so extremely witty? The girl has clearly got a gift.
“Grayed-down discipleship is an easier sell, but it created pretend Christians, obsessing over Scriptures we like while conspicuously ignoring the rest. Until God asks for everything and we answer, “It’s yours,” we don’t yet have ears to hear or eyes to see. We’re still deaf to the truth, blind to freedom, deceived by the treasures of the world, imaging them to be the key when they are actually the lock.” pg. 93.
So, I’ve disappeared into weeks of summertime and kids and the beach and library trips but mostly into the struggle of my own soul knowing that I had to cry out and cry out and cry out.
Out of the desperation, the longing for communion is rising: “Come, Lord Jesus.”
No more theories. Just Jesus standing in the middle of my storm.