The Practice of His Presence


Well it’s that time again. Anyone that has followed this blog for a while knows that I go through “blog angst” from time to time and now and again. I get into a “funk” and question the direction and content of my blog-writing. By now the script for my whining and pining is well-formed and well-documented, but it always seems to end up at the same place: I need to make this blog more personal; it’s not the right venue for in-depth theological engagement; I need not be scared of putting myself in this thing (as I’ve written before).

And this angst could not come at a stranger time for me to try and talk about my personal spirituality rather than using the theological stuff to keep myself at a distance.

The last two weeks of Lent were crazy intense for me spiritually, exposing depths of frustration and (dare I admit it?) hatred towards God for how I felt he had not been very faithful to me in certain ways and areas–how he seemed more apt to toy with me than love me.

Unlike other times in the past, though, these revelations of deep doubt and unfaithfulness on my part did not eventually conclude in some sort of grand spiritual epiphany with all the loose-ends neatly tied up. For two weeks, there were tears (lots of them), there was cussing (even more than the tears!), and there was yelling at God (oh the melodrama of it all!).

And then I moved on.

The questions weren’t answered. The “story” did not make any more sense than before. Jesus did not ride in on some white horse and give me some sort of charismatic experience within which I found my rest and clarity. I just had peace. The frustrations that had gripped my heart were loosened and just weren’t as big of deals anymore.

And so now my heart finds myself reacting to this by moving in a strange “phase two” of this season of my spirituality:

I really want to know Jesus. Like, in that weird way that can sometimes get uncomfortable to others. I want to know his voice and know his presence, and feel a union with him that transcends all other allurements to my heart. Actually, I’m not even that concerned about “sinning less”, I just want him. I want to relate to him in that whole Lover/Beloved, Bride/Bridegroom sort of way.

I know, I know. Even as I write this, I fear these words are sounding like the height of spiritual douche-baggery, seemingly implying that other Christians don’t want to “know” Jesus as much as “super spiritual” me.

But this is a question of quality, not quantity–or maybe “style” is a more precise way of putting it. Though I’m sure all of us Christians want to “know” Jesus, I’m longing for a certain “flavor”, “aroma”, or “style” of relating to him. I would love to say with Brother Lawrence, “I have, at times, had such delicious thoughts of God, I am ashamed to even mention them.”

I want that.

But I don’t know what to do. God feels far. I have confidence he indwells me–that he’s rolling around somewhere in there–but he’s just not connecting to my conscious experience. I know he’s revealed in Scripture, but it’s just not the same relating to him through text on a page–even as holy as it is; it just feels like pure intellectual “knowledge” of who God is. I want the Spirit to start weaving the deepest thoughts of God into the tapestry of my soul.

The one conclusion I have come to and for which I would love to ask for prayer: I need to learn how to listen when talking to my Lover. I’m terrible at that. I can talk and talk and talk in prayer, but silence is not my strongest suit. I need to grow in that. Perhaps that’s the first step.

So what about you? What ways have you found to plumb the depths of intimacy with Christ? What advice would you give to a fellow weary pilgrim trying to cultivate the discipline of Silence?

P.S. Thanks for the inspiration for this post, Blake

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9 thoughts on “The Practice of His Presence

  1. I have no advice, no secrets. Just a single solitary nod in your direction. An “I know how you feel” comment. I’m with you these days.

  2. You know Paul that’s personal. What would move you about a man w/ no stately bearing? The first time I experienced the presence of God (via the Holy Spirit) all charasmaticly and what not. Kirk Franklin’s, “Now Behold the Lamb” was playing and I was brushing my teeth getting ready for church one Sunday after a night of partying that Saturday night. I was overwhelmed by the idea that, “He Loved Me.” Jesus the one true God loved me. How could this be? Me a sinful man loved by the Holy Lamb of God. I grew up in Catholic church on Saturdays and in an Assembly of God on Sundays. I too would see people dancing crying shouting feeling God’s presence, & I wanted it. I wanted to know Him. I think what allowed my dimly lit glass to peer betwixt the cleft in the rock was him.
    Just this past Sunday I was struck with the idea to notice that not one of his bones were broken. Not one. This wasn’t just a prophesy full filled. This was a presenting of the spotless bride. Eve came from the first Adam’s rib. If we are his bride he kept us from being broken when he was beaten, falling, whipped. Nothing could stop him from preserving that which he held precious. Holy is the Lord.

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