Experiencing His Trustworthiness
A few weeks ago, I was privileged to preach on the idea of spiritual formation through the lens of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We spoke about her remarkable first line of “may it be”; her consent to the things of God and the faith that would have required. We looked at her story and saw how time and time again she was invited to be transformed by truth: mind, body, and soul. We spoke about the process of her internal and external world being brought into alignment with the character and nature of God Himself and the beauty and pain of that journey.
Spiritual formation is the practice of learning to trust that our God is who He says He is. Not just holding that truth in our mind alone but allowing ourselves to be reconciled and healed through Jesus Himself (Colossians 1:20). We are invited into the life of Jesus and that should change everything about us. We have the privilege of partaking in the resurrection of our Messiah, our King and then we are welcomed into learning how to live a resurrected life right now. That’s spiritual formation.
Spiritual formation, the kind that Mary experienced, requires faith from us. Faith like this, however, is not something we can conjure if we try hard enough. Faith like this doesn’t come from our will. Faith like this starts with and is rooted in trust. Faith, like the faith described so often in the Bible, is not about willing something to be true, or wishful thinking. Faith like what is described is a soul longing question of, “Is God trustworthy?” If you can begin to venture into that question, there you will find life abundant. Mary trusted God and so she consented to the things of God. Her entire reality was shifted, her internal world and her expectations on God shifted, expanded, and ultimately were fulfilled in the greatest way possible.
The question then becomes how do we trust like this? How, in our doubts, fears, anxieties, and uncertainties, do we begin to foster and experience this kind of trust? This kind of soul-deep question touches the deepest, most infected, scarred, and bricked off parts of our humanity. This question mystically also touches the darkest, most obscene, and painful realities of our world. How do we have faith rooted in trust of a God who claims to be good?
Trust like this can only be known and experienced through truth and spirit. We must know it and have experienced it. One can know about something proficiently and still not trust it because they have never experienced it for themselves. The kind of faith we are talking about here is rooted in the presence of God. To know God deeply, to find Him trustworthy, answers the question about His goodness and propels us to follow Him yet deeper still into the depths of the unknown where his healing and resurrection can bring all broken and diseased things into wholeness and healing.
Below are descriptions of two practices that I have found disrupt my everyday functioning in a meaningful way. This is important because so much of our lives and our functions are automated. To disrupt what is normative and intentionally foster a space where we make ourselves aware of the God who wants to be with us (Emmanuel), creates an opportunity to experience His trustworthiness. These are not magical or mystical practices. They won’t “bring God’s presence” because God is already here, now, with you. These are practices that help awaken our heart, minds, and bodies, to that reality and that reality will always transform us.
1. SILENCE AND SOLITUDE
This is different from loneliness. Loneliness is a lack of meaningful connection; silence and solitude are a practice of trust and peace. When I practice silence and solitude I struggle. My mind races with tasks undone and fears I am trying to out-think and out-action. This is the depth of the invitation of this practice. To sit quietly with my God. To allow my thoughts to settle. To make a conscious decision to lay my fears, aches, and hopes in the hands of my God. The goal of this practice is not to get through it, the goal of this practice is that it is uncomfortable to be made aware of how much my heart spins and my head clings to my own abilities, and my body takes the beating of too much cortisol rushing through my system. Silence and solitude isn’t an eastern concept of emptying oneself, it’s filling oneself with the presence of God. It’s taking stock of where I cling to control and fear and the glorious, if not painful invitation, to trust that God is good, and I am free to put control in His hands.
Find somewhere beautiful and/or peaceful, a place you will not be interrupted but you are safe.
Put your cell phone's timer on for 45 minutes and then turn it too silent. This way you don’t have to look at your phone again because you know the alarm will go off and you won’t be distracted by that Facebook alert.
Take some deep breaths to calm your body (big breaths in through your nose and out from your mouth, like you are blowing out birthday cake candles, lowers adrenaline and cortisol in your body).
Sit. Attune yourself to the reality that you are in the presence of God. There are no magic words, mystical tea, or special songs that “get you there.” You are in the presence of God. Breathe deeply when your thoughts spiral. Know that God is there. Ask Him if he is trustworthy. You don’t need to prove what you know to Him by telling Him your theories or experiences. Just sit there. Listen.
When the inevitable task list or hurt feelings surface, hold them, then offer them to God. See if He is trustworthy.
When your alarm goes off or whenever you are done, take another deep breath. Take stock of your body, mind, and spirit. Consider what sitting in God’s presence does to you.
Invitation to Silence and Solitude: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence by Ruth Hailey Barton
Eating is something most of us do most days. Some of us have too much, others not enough. When the Bible tells us Jesus came for the reconciliation of all things, it really is all things. Food is a sacred and fundamental requirement to be human. It’s not only a requirement for survival, throughout scripture we see time and time again when food is an invitation to partake in the life of God, to be transformed, reminded of truth, and welcomed into living a life of trust. To our culture, that invitation may mean to slow down and to consider. Similarly, the practice of taking eucharist (communion) is so vital to our Christian faith because it’s a prophetic act of remembrance that we are meant to do in community. Eating an intentional meal can bring us back to reality of what is true, good, and beautiful.
Whether it is top ramen in your dorm room, a nicely laid table, or a sandwich during lunch break; pick a meal on purpose. You can do this with friends or alone, both are meaningful. Think through what was required for this meal to come to you. Farmers, processors, chefs, your own hands or those of someone near you. Give individual thanks for each life that brought you your meal. While there is much to ponder in regard to the complexities of human interaction, take time to bless each person involved in this one simple meal. Recognize and evaluate each individual's value, their reality of their image bearer-ness. Allow yourself to give thanks for these humans you have probably never met and the remarkability that your words of blessing matter because you too are made in God’s image, here on earth with the ability and design to reflect God’s goodness into this world. Through this meal you are being blessed while also being a blessing and that is remarkable.
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren
May you experience the goodness and trustworthiness of God in more depth and intimacy in this year like never before. Blessing to you brothers and sisters,