Sunday, March 3, 2013

30 Days With Wesley: Reality Check

If you want to spend time with God - if you want to get to know God - if you want to have a relationship with God - you will soon find that most often you have to deal with "real world" conditions and not what would be the "ideal" conditions.

Many people think that if they can discover God, this will somehow help their lives and world move from the present reality that they don't like to an ideal reality that they will like.

God is not a genie or a magician.

At least, not the God who claims to be revealed most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ, whom the Bible, the Christian Scriptures - and the apostolic witness of the Church, the people of God, the body of Christ - testify to.

The History Channel debuted their 10-hour series "the Bible" tonight.  If you watched this (or if you have read the Bible, at all) you know the story contained in it is chock full of less-than-ideal real world conditions.  We don't live in an ideal world.  But that doesn't mean ideals aren't important.  Far from it.

The problem comes in when we allow our ideals to morph into our idols.  We cannot so highly value and cling to the ideal that we are unable to acknowledge what is real.

I'm now through my 4th day of "30 Days With Wesley."  It's good.  Today, though, was not ideal.  In my ideal world, I'd have a nice, long, leisurely, time-and-space of solitude (well, just God and I, anyway) in the morning. before anything else takes place.  Today that was not going to happen.  Instead I had to deal with a short, early afternoon, interruption filled, time-and-space of non-solitude (God and I were still there, but...).  This is not ideal.  But it was reality, today.

If you want to follow God and be like Jesus, the 'ideal' will not always happen.  Jesus dealt with this, too.  We know that Jesus "often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16), and yet He was often interrupted when He tried to get away, too.  The needs of the people were great, and they came to Him, rightly so, to help them.  Pastors and spiritual directors deal with this sort of thing all the time, as well.  We draw lines to protect ourselves and our families.  But we draw them ideally knowing we will cross them really (and probably really soon). Sometimes the real world conditions mean interruptions and inconveniences.  Sometimes they mean consequences that are far more grave.

And by the way, I'm not advocating for the kind of 'leadership' that suggests "you are called by God, so your family just has to deal with all the junk that comes with it" (as some pastors I have worked with in the past have *openly* told me was their philosophy) - and subtly (or not so subtly) demanded that I needed to as well).  We need to be emotionally healthy and minister to our own families, children, spouses every bit as much as the rest of the world.  Pastors who tell their people to make their family's spiritual and emotional well-being a priority and then, well, don't - well, they remind me of Matthew 23 that we were studying in our quizzing Bible study earlier today.

But back on point:  You will live through many less-than-ideal days.  Stuff happens.  Life happens.  I'm not minimizing that, at all.  But it cannot become an excuse for neglecting the practicing of our faith and the spiritual disciplines necessary to a life well-lived for God in Christ through Holy Spirit.

So as I finished my prayer exercises tonight, I did not much feel very good about it, or that much had come from it.  Perhaps the novelty of this project had worn off already?  No...chances are I'm still dealing with a lot of life stressors, and exhausted mentally and emotionally.  And we all face those at varying levels and to varying degrees and different times in our lives.  What do we do then?  They are the times when we need to prove faithful in devotion to Christ through the disciplines.  Anyone can pray and read and seek and worship when it feels exciting and seems to be making a tangible difference.  But those days are few(er) and far(ther) between if we don't take the opportunity - ideal, real, or otherwise, to trudge through the disciplines on the days when it doesn't feel like much of anything and doesn't seem to make a difference, at all.

I'm hoping to see God's vision, purpose, and plans for some things much more clearly at the end of the 30 days.  But I won't be able to do it if I don't give it my all and trudge through the seemingly insignificant day 4.

Have you taken time to quiet yourself and acknowledge the presence of Christ today?  Have you spoken to God?  Listened to Holy Spirit?  If you are reading this, and it's today (and no matter when you read it, it will be) - there's still time.  

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