Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Experiencing God?

First snow of November, 2015!   -     Photo credit: Lawrence Jansen

First snow of November, 2015!   -    Photo credit: Lawrence Jansen

One of the requirements for a course I'm taking at seminary is that I meet with a spiritual director for five sessions from Urban Sanctuary. I'm thrilled about this as this is something dear to my heart, it is where I used to work, it is what my own training has been in and it 'forces' me to receive care regarding my spiritual life.

What surprised me was what happened in our first session. I met with Mark, who used to be my supervisor and as we chatted and sipped coffee and as I began to share things that were going on in my life he listened quietly. He then asked me,  "How are you experiencing God in those places of tension?" I felt stunned. His question was so simple. 

As we continued to talk, I realized that when I experience moments of tension, pressure, confusion or anxiety throughout the day, I tend to want to 'figure it out'. This usually means lots of thinking, ruminating, and journalling about it later on in the day. I don't usually stop right in the moment and ask Jesus for insight. I mull it over all day and then pray about it later. Everything is done later.

So this past month, I've been practicing turning to Jesus right in those immediate moments of tension. So whether its about a sudden hit of pain that keeps me at home rather than able to go out for the afternoon, or a conversation with someone that feels awkward or triggers some kind of response in me, I've been praying, "Lord, in this moment, what do you want me to see about who You are, who I am, and what is going on in my heart, mind, body and soul?" And the more I listen, the more I can hear Him! 

Have you seen those commercials about house insurance? The guy stands in a kitchen full of water up to his knees and he's calling the insurance company. There is a large timer that is counting the minutes from when he calls to when the insurance company starts his claim. He says to them, "so you've started my claim already?" and they say yes. He stops the timer and promotes how fast they started working on his behalf. 

At the risk of a cheap comparison of God's power in our lives, could this be similar? We run into trouble, pain, anxiety and feelings of stress and we feel overwhelmed. We try to handle it on our own all day. We strive, we fix, we clean it up, we struggle . . . or  . . . we call on Jesus - right then - in the midst of it. Could it be that we are missing out on the immediacy of God's transforming work in our lives because we wait, we hesitate or, like me, try to figure things out on my own. 

Probably a good idea is to learn from David, a guy whom God called, "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:12). David prayed in those moments of tension . . . and so can we. 

Psalm 86 The Message (MSG)

"Bend an ear, God; answer me. I’m one miserable wretch! Keep me safe—haven’t I lived a good life?
  Help your servant—I’m depending on you! You’re my God; have mercy on me.
   I count on you from morning to night. Give your servant a happy life;
   I put myself in your hands! You’re well-known as good and forgiving, bighearted to all who ask for help. Pay attention, God, to my prayer;  bend down and listen to my cry for help.
Every time I’m in trouble I call on you, confident that you’ll answer.

There’s no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord,  and nothing to compare with your works.
All the nations you made are on their way, ready to give honor to you, O Lord,
Ready to put your beauty on display, parading your greatness,
And the great things you do—God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!

Train me, God, to walk straight;    then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord; I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to.
You’ve always been great toward me—what love! You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads! A gang of thugs is after me—
    and they don’t care a thing about you. But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
    not easily angered, immense in love, and you never, never quit.
So look me in the eye and show kindness, give your servant the strength to go on,
    save your dear, dear child. Make a show of how much you love me
    so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed. As you, God, gently and powerfully
    put me back on my feet."

Lord, may we remember who You are, that You invite us to come just as we are, in the moment, before anything is 'fixed' so that Your transforming love and power can change our lives and bring You glory. Amen.