After reading David Brenner’s book, The Gift of Being Yourself:The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery, one big take-away for me is the realization that my relationship with God has been largely, and sadly, superficial. It is difficult to admit that. And yes, I know. I am a church planter—a pastor who has been in ordained, vocational ministry for 18 years. I have advanced degrees. I teach others regularly. I am a spiritual leader. Certainly I have a vital, intimate relationship with the Father, right? Well, there have been times on the mountain top, no doubt. However, I cannot say that I have enjoyed a day-in and day-out intimacy with God in the way that it possible. I have served God, but have not really known him in the way that I long to know him. If that is true for me, I assume it must be true for others, too. So, I offer this post for those of us with unrealized desires for an intimate knowing of God at the very core of our souls that not only fuels our personal joy, but manifests outwardly in supernatural fruit, such as genuine repentance, wholehearted forgiveness, authentic humility, radical generosity, and sacrificial love.
If you recognize your own superficiality, this self-knowledge is a condition (or spiritual posture) that I call the grace of self-awareness. Identifying my relational superficiality with God is not a bad thing to lament. It is a gift to embrace. Why? Because it reveals a longing for intimacy with God where the very core of my being desires to know him as my Abba. To rest in him as my perfect righteousness. To walk with him as my closest friend. To be the object of his eternal affection. To be fully known and fully accepted at the same time. To delight in the joy of being his. To follow where ever he leads.
It is the grace of self-awareness that provides the gift to move beyond superficiality! But how? Here are five ideas:
1) Confess superficiality. Start with where you are. Remember, self-awareness is a place of grace.
2) Express the longing to really know God. Not just a longing to know about him, but to enjoy a spiritually sensory, vibrant, vital relationship with him.
3) Waste time in silence in God’s presence. Whether sitting or walking, acknowledge God’s presence and just be still and know that The Lord is God. Let him speak simple truths over your life, such as “You are mine.” “You are forgiven.” “You are my beloved son/daughter.” Believe that this is God’s disposition to you. As David Brenner says, “In order for my knowing of God’s love to be truly transformational, it must become the basis for [my] identity.” That is what we are seeking to weave into our souls—an identity rooted in the love of God expressed through the cross of Jesus. The idea with silence and stillness is to avoid being productive (to learn to be before we do). You can’t fill up a jar at the faucet by moving it all around the room. It must be still under the faucet in order to be filled. So be still. Turn off the TV. Close the laptop. Silence the phone. Believe the promises of the gospel and be filled. This is what I mean by “wasting” time. We are not doing. Just receiving and believing. This can be an hour or a 3 minute break in the day, or anything in between or even longer. After all, we get to know someone by spending time with them.
4) Listen for the Spirit’s voice in the Scriptures. Read a small section and look for just one word that stands out as God’s word for you. Ask, “Why is this word for me?” Then let it soak into your soul. After some soakage, seek ways to practically do something with that word. Put shoes on it. For more info on this, go to this post. The point is to listen for God’s voice to you personally. Not mystically, but through his Word. Let your heart be open to hearing from God and acting on what he speaks into your life. This is a huge part in moving from superficiality to intimacy.
5) Respond with simple prayer. Prayer is just speaking to God. So, since he is our Abba, go to him without pretense of super-spirituality. Just express your heart. Give thanks for his Word to you. Ask for whatever you need. But don’t “hang up.” When Paul said to pray without ceasing, he meant to walk with God with a sense of continual communion, where he is with us, literally walking with us, as if hand in hand, throughout the day.
These are just five of many ways to move from superficiality to intimacy. Let me know how your experience with this unfolds!