Further up and Further In

 

Going Deeper with Jesus

Further up and Further In

 

Recenter

Before engaging with the next section, you might want to take a walk and allow God to speak to you through the beauty of His creation, which never needs enhancing. Practice making this a spacious time, unhurried, with plenty of room to breathe. Resist engaging with technology. Simply make yourself available to the God who loves you deeply. ​

 

Gentle me,

Holy One,

into an unclenched moment,

a deep breath,

a letting go

of heavy expectancies,

of shriveling anxieties,

of dead certainties,

that, softened by the silence,

surrounded by the light,

and open to the mystery,

I may be found by wholeness,

upheld by the unfathomable,

entranced by the simple,

and filled with the joy

that is you.


(from Guerillas of Grace, Prayers for the Battle, by Ted Loder)

 

Our Curious Resistance

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”​ ​ ​ ​

— Isaiah 30:15

 

At times it seems that all of our mental and physical energy is spent avoiding the descent into that secret room where our Father waits to greet us and embrace us. Jesus has made it clear, He is always present with us. He is always present in us. Yet perhaps our greatest struggle is to become fully present with Him. That struggle has far-reaching implications for ourselves, our relationships and our world.

 

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician, physicist and theologian said it this way, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in his room alone.” A 2014 study in the journal Science​ underscored Pascal’s theory. Eleven studies found that the clear majority of participants preferred electric shock to sitting in a room alone with their own thoughts! (See TIME magazine, July 23, 2014.)

 

Our Curious Resistance

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” ​ ​ ​

Isaiah 30:15

 

At times it seems that all of our mental and physical energy is spent avoiding the descent into that secret room where our Father waits to greet us and embrace us. Jesus has made it clear, He is always present with us. He is always present in us. Yet perhaps our greatest struggle is to become fully present with Him. That struggle has far-reaching implications for ourselves, our relationships and our world.

 

Blaise Pascal, the brilliant French mathematician, physicist and theologian said it this way, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in his room alone.” A 2014 study in the journal Science underscored Pascal’s theory. Eleven studies found that the clear majority of participants preferred electric shock to sitting in a room alone with their own thoughts! (See TIME magazine, July 23, 2014.)

 

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in his room alone.”

Consider for a moment, this story:

I (Donna) have a new mentor in my life. His name is Aaron, an African-American man in his late 30s who grew up in South Central Los Angeles during the 1992 riots. Aaron could see buildings burning from his front door.

 

Aaron has spent most of his adult life in prison where he has lived what you might call a forced monastic life. And though I think his sentence is significantly out of proportion to his crime, he is neither angry nor bitter. ​ I haven’t met many men or women who have surrendered themselves so fully to Jesus. I am honored to sit at his feet and learn.

Not long ago, my friend Debbie and I went to visit Aaron on a Saturday afternoon. We sat at a table with him in the common area for about four hours, sharing food from the vending machines and talking. That heavily-guarded room is the only place that Aaron is allowed to sit in a chair. I can’t imagine not sitting in a chair for 16 years.

 

Recently, something wonderful happened to Aaron. He was moved from his cell into a dormitory setting with other prisoners. Now he gets to walk in and out of an open door into the prison yard from 7 in the morning until 9 at night.

 

That Saturday Aaron said something that impacted me deeply. He said, “I hope I never have to go back to a cell again, but I might. It just depends upon the warden. If I do have to go back,” he said, “I hope I will do a few things differently.”

 

I asked him what he would do differently, and his answer was quite sobering. He said, “The moment they close the door to your cell and you know that you have no power to do anything about it, it is amazing where your mind goes in order to escape that moment.” Then Aaron said, “If I ever have to go back, I hope I will be able to remain fully present in that moment when they close the door.”

 

“To remain fully present when they close the door.” It seems Aaron and Pascal are traveling along the same road, perhaps from slightly different directions. They would both agree, all of our problems stem from our inability to remain fully present in our room alone. They would also both agree; however, we never actually sit in any room alone. The Triune God is fully present with us; He is fully present in us. It is we who have trouble becoming fully present with Him.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered us ample opportunity to sit in our room alone; even more, to retreat into our inner room, close the door and deepen our intimacy with God. And yet, many of us have discovered we are very creative. We can find a dozen different ways to distract ourselves, even when the whole wide world is closed. And, unlike Aaron, not only can our mind find a dozen different escape routes, but where our minds go, our bodies often follow.

What reactions or responses have you noticed within yourself as different doors have been closed to you during this pandemic? Where has your mind gone? Where has your body followed? Without judging or condemning yourself, notice and name your reactions and responses in the gentle presence of Jesus.

 

If you could imagine Jesus saying something kind to you about your reactions and responses, what might He say? Take a moment to linger with this question. Consider writing a letter from​ Jesus to you, expressing His kindness and compassion regarding your reactions and responses these past few months.

 

Imagine sitting in a prison cell the moment the door closes, and there is nothing you can do about it. What a powerless feeling. What has made you feel powerless lately? Consider making a list: Lord, I feel powerless when…What conversation would you like to have with the Lord about your list?

 

It has been noted by many wise men and women that our curious resistance to solitude and silence might be connected to our fear of death. ​ Death will be a solitary moment for each of us. There will be no more ability to distract ourselves or hide who we are before God. Will God show up for us in that moment? Or will we finally be left abandoned and alone? If He shows up, will He take one look at us and reject us? Maybe He won’t flat-out reject us. Maybe He will reluctantly accept us, or tolerate us, with a clear look of disappointment on His face, or a slight grimace of disgust. ​

 

Father Gregory Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries in the same neighborhood that Aaron watched burn, reminds us:

 

God is too busy being delighted with us to have time to be disappointed in us.

 

Imagine for a moment, the best version of God you could possibly imagine. The most loving, generous, forgiving, magnanimous, creative, hilarious, and smitten-with-you God. Then remember, you cannot imagine the depth of His goodness and His love.

 

God, who is always greater than any God we can imagine, is the One who is waiting for us the moment the door closes. And He is glad to wait as long as it takes for us to settle down and look into His eyes. The Father’s eyes are the only mirror we can trust to show us who we really are. And Jesus will tell you, the Father’s eyes light up when you walk into the room. ​

 

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in his room alone.” But sitting in that secret room with your Father and allowing Him to deeply and actively love you, this​ is the first step toward bringing healing and wholeness to this hurting world.

 

Thank you, Lord

Sit beneath the Father’s loving gaze for a few moments.

Thank Him for loving you so deeply and so well.

Take some time to write out or verbalize a description of the best father you can imagine. Shoot for the moon. Then, at the end of what you have written or said, simply say, “Thank you, Father, that you are better than what I can imagine.” (Matthew 7:9-11; 1 Corinthians 2:9).

Thank you, Father, that you are better than what I can imagine.

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