By Dan Crain, Pastor and Connector
A blog in the series of Loving Freely.
Many times during the week I will feel frantic, out of center with Jesus, not living on the Island of Peace in my soul, and reacting to everything around me. I basically become a love sponge trying to soak up any and every kind of love and affection around me. I will be grumpy, feel rushed, panicked, and have this constant voice in the back of my head saying, “You need to do something Dan or you’re not that important.” It is then that I will gently feel the Spirit say to me, “Dan, come and rest.”
Reconciliation is hard work. Joining lives with our friends on the margins and attempting to get others to do the same is strenuous work. In the past year Christ has opened a lot of doors to help his bride work through racial reconciliation and being in these spaces is hard, even with my white privilege. It’s those days that are the most difficult that I will shut everything down and then turn the clock on my phone to ten minutes and spend time in silence being reminded of God’s heart for me and reconciliation.
I will sense the Holy Spirit say, “you don’t have to seek out anyone for approval. You don’t have control of your life. I make you feel safe and secure. Don’t wander away from my presence.” I will be reminded of a quote from Dignity Serves, “God’s commitment precedes our own.”
Reconciliation is his work, not ours. He is the reconciler. It’s His Spirit. It’s His work in us and through us that is reconciling all things because Christ longs for reconciliation much more than I do.
I have to constantly be reminded that I am not the savior, Jesus is, as Phil Hissom writes in this description of Dignity Serves.
I often feel a pressure from my false self that I need to do something to further the work of reconciliation. When I check myself, I realize it’s a need driven out of my family of origin that is manifesting itself in a need for affirmation, control, being safe and secure or being separate. I will then come back to the presence of God and be reminded for who he’s created me to be and then love freely.
I will have to be honest. My false self hates silence. Silence and being still with God does nothing to feed my false self’s desire to prove that I am something in this world. Yet, the Jesus we follow is constantly drawing away to be in silence with the Heavenly Father. We follow his example and this allows us to come to a place of Loving Freely.
Recently I was drawn to meditate on Psalm 46. This is an often-quoted Psalm for what David said in verse ten, “Be still and know that I am God.” But what struck me recently is all that’s happening around this command of being still. In verse two it says, “the earth giving away, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Verse six says, “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
In the midst of all the chaos of the earth giving away, the mountains falling into the heart of the sea, the command is to be still.
I sensed God’s Spirit say to me, “Let me fight for you, you just be still.” This brings me back to a fresh sense of God’s presence in me, around me and in others.
When I am silent with the reconciler it brings me back to the Island of Peace within my soul. Howard Thurman (a mentor to MLK Jr.), the originator of the concept of an Island of Peace within your own soul says this about silence;
“There is very great virtue in the cultivation of silence, and strength to be found in using it as a door to God. Such a door opens within. When I have quieted down, I must spend some time in self-examination in the Presence of God. Every period of prayer should provide for an experience of self-examination in the presence of God. Self-examination issues most often in a sense of sin, the acknowledgement of which is the first step in the forgiveness of God. It is at such a moment that a man sees that the wrongdoing of which he may be guilty is a wrongdoing against God. “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight.” Such is always the final testimony of the spirit in self-examination in the Presence of God. It is at such moments that I may become literally over whelmed by a profound sense of the love and the grace of God.” (Thurman, Meditations of the Heart)
In Mark 1 Jesus withdraws to be in silence with God the Father, “Very early in the morning, white it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Henri Nouwen says of Jesus withdrawing, “In the heart of much involvement here are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude. The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’ ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn. In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father, that his ministry is born.”
Slowing our lives down to be with the reconciler is an essential part of loving freely. If we don’t slow down to examine our motives and hear from God, we will always be reacting out of the false self.
Bonhoeffer says this; “With remarkable frequency the Scriptures remind us that the men of God rose early to seek God and carry out His commands, as did Abraham, Jacob, Moses and Joshua (cf. Gen. 19:27, 22:3; Ex. 8:16, 9:13, 24:4: Josh. 3:1, 6:12, etc.) The gospel, which never speaks a superfluous word, says of Jesus himself: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed into a solitary place and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). (Life Together, 43-44)
And in being with the reconciler, we receive a new energy and power that only comes from him and as Robert Mulholland in the Deeper Journey says; “Union with God results in our being a person through whom God’s presence touches the world with forgiving, cleansing, healing, liberating and transforming grace.”
This is why Sabbath keeping is so important. God gives it to us in order to force us to listen to Him, spend time meditating on the scriptures and process what’s happened in us during the week. In Mark 2, Jesus tells his disciples, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was made for us!
Why was the Sabbath made for us? One element I believe is that it forces us to slow down and to be in silence with God. It’s in silence with God that we can process what’s happening in us internally, hear the voice of God in His scripture, this then allow us to love others freely.
Watchman Nee in Sit, Walk, Stand says it like this; “This was God’s principle from the beginning in the creation God worked from the first to the sixth day and rested on the seventh. We may truthfully say that for those first six days he was very busy. Then, the task he had set himself completed, he ceased to work. The seventh day became the sabbath of God; it was God’s rest.”
“But what of Adam? Where did he stand in relation to that rest of God? Adam, we are told, was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, we had no part in those first days of work, for he came into being only at their end. God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first. Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed his sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the sabbath; for God works before he rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest and then alone can he work.”
“Moreover it was because God’s work of creation was truly complete that Adam’s life could begin with rest. And here is the gospel, that God has gone one stage further and has completed also the work of redemption, and that we need do nothing whatever to merit it, but can enter by faith directly into the values of his finished work.”
It is because of Christ’s finished work that we can enter into a place of silence with God during Sabbath keeping.
After a lot of trial and error, I’ve attempted to summarize Loving Freely into a Daily Practice to be done alone with Christ twice a day, mid morning and afternoon for ten minutes in silence.
All throughout the day we have experiences where our false selves are always longing for certain things. This practice allows us to be alone with Christ, allow His Spirit to name what our false selves desire based on the scripture we are reading, confess to Christ our sin, thus revealing the true self that He’s placed in us, in order to us to love the freely, ultimately for His glory.
- Spend three minutes in silence with Christ’s presence, become aware of his spirit in you and around you. Center yourself upon being God’s beloved child, focusing on the glory of God, how expansive He is in the universe, how glorious God is, but yet he loves us so much and believes that we are his beloved. Think of the universe and how massive it is and how insignificant we are sitting here in this space. Yet, God deeply cares about our emotions and literally takes up residence in us in the deep interior parts of our world with all of the negative experiences and emotions from our past.
- Ask that Christ will work through the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you into all truth while reflecting on the specific scripture you read this morning.
- Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139)
- “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward everyone according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
- The reality is that Christ knows our anxious thoughts. He knows what we’re thinking and experiencing. The questions then becomes, do we know our anxious thoughts? Can we name them and bring them to Christ and allow him to change us?
- What trigger (approval/affirmation, the need to control, the longing for safety/security, or to be separate) has pulled you away from God’s presence and your true self in Christ? (The Island of Peace in Christ) “Ignoring our emotions is turning our back on reality. Listening to our emotions ushers us into reality. And reality is where we meet God. . . . Emotions are the language of the soul. They are the cry that gives the heart a voice. . .” Peter Scazzero
- Name the specific circumstances (interaction with spouse, co-worker, someone your were called to love/serve) that pulled you away from God’s presence/your true self?
- Confess that you can’t save yourself and that you’re powerless to the addiction of the false self. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
- Name what your false self longed for in that moment.
- How does the trigger connect to the core lie that you grew up with from your family of origin?
- What connection does the scripture you read this morning have to do with your core lie and the trigger that’s pulled you off your Island of Peace in Christ? Name this truth and ask for forgiveness to Christ and release what the false self is desiring.
- Rest in Christ as His spirit brings us back to the Island of Peace in our soul. Reflect on Romans 8:1; “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Know that we will fail, but we have a God who wastes nothing.
This Loving Freely daily practice will hopefully allow you to practice more awareness of Christ’s presence in you and around you and also be aware of what’s triggering you on a regular basis.
May Christ continue to reconciler all things, including the deep interior of our divided lives through being alone with Him!