I feel like I need to apologize. I am so inconsistent in my blogging recently. I’m really doing good with studying the Scriptures and trying to devote time to developing my spiritual life, but I’m failing terribly on documenting it all. But it feels like the more I learn, the less I know. And if I don’t think I know very much, how does one articulate what they are learning and realizing?
But I am beginning to realize a spiritual truth and it comes with some good news and some bad news. I’m totally immersed in Acts right now — rather appropriate this Pentecost Sunday. I’m also completely into the miniseries AD: The Bible Continues which seems to be a dramatization of Acts. Of course, it’s not totally and authentically true to the story in every way, because as any good English teacher knows, the movie is never as good as the book. However, it is pretty close in many ways, and it’s fascinating to see it played out on the small screen and to be able to somewhat follow along in my Bible.
All of these texts and the others I’ve read recently lead me to a realization. The good news: people can have really amazing, personal, life-changing, radical, wonderful experiences and exchanges with God. They have actually “seen” Christ in one way or another. They’ve looked beyond creation to see the creator. These people often have an amazing peace and a freedom in their lives by being disconnected to consumerism, possessions, others’ opinions, and the ongoing rat race of life and career. They are exceedingly happy to a point that the happiness radiates beyond some fleeting moment. It is a happiness that is stronger than any mere set of circumstances. This is what we refer to as joy. Who doesn’t want that, right?!
I don’t want to just know of God. I want to know Him. And I want to be assured that He knows me. I want to hear Him call my name. To steal the famous line, I want to reach out and touch Him. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have wished Jesus would physically walk on this earth again in a form I could see and have him straight up tell me what I need to do. Those times when I got ready to shoot off my mouth and be a total ass, those times when I decided people needed a “piece of my mind,” those times when I was just getting ready to open my mouth to gossip, bad mouth, insult, zealously defend, or any other number of negative, hurtful ways I’ve ended up using my mouth…..that’s when I really wish Jesus would magically appear, put his hand over my mouth, and say, “uhm….you really don’t want to do that. You’ll feel guilty later. Plus, if you knew what was going on in their lives, you wouldn’t be so angry.” That sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?
One would think having such an experience with Jesus in the flesh or through some sort of miracle would mean life would be so much easier. If only we could touch the hem of his garment, literally, life would be so crystal clear and simple.
But wait a minute…..that’s not what I see in Acts. And that brings us to the bad news. Apparently, life is not all clear with unicorns and rainbows having had such an experience. In fact, typically, the closer to Jesus one is, the tougher life gets as we see in the New Testament. Looking at the story of these early Christians, there was isolation, prison, beatings, stonings, and days spent in hiding. Often, we use the word persecution, but it’s hard for me — a white woman in America — to really understand that word, so I hesitate to use it. I don’t want my words to in any way make the reality seem vanilla and ordinary.
It’s such a paradox, an inconsistency, a contradiction on the surface. Christ brings us clarity, resolve, joy, peace — but moving closer to Him results in our situations seeming confusing, chaotic, painful, isolating, and hard. But this is exactly the scenario we are shown in Acts. How does one make sense of this?
I suppose the only answer I can find at this time is that drawing closer to God allows us to handle the confusing, chaotic, and hard. Truthfully, people of all faiths (and no faiths) have hard times. Some are harder than others, but life in general can be painful. So if my life is going to have moments of pain and desperation when it feels as if the universe is spinning out of control around me, how glad I am to have something that is steady and provides me a secure footing. My marriage and family, my friends, my job, my health, my possessions, my freedom, even my church — could be gone tomorrow. They do not provide secure footing. Only Christ can do that for me.
Perhaps those early followers like Peter had the privilege of seeing Jesus face-to-face on this Earth because their struggles would be so great it would necessitate that experience to keep them going. They really did have to give up everything — including their lives. How much better were they prepared for such difficulties as a result of being with Jesus — hearing His voice, eating with Him, traveling with Him. Therefore, maybe when I experience God in the moments of my life — whether it is through something as dramatic as a burning bush or something as meek as a child’s laughter — I can thank Him for helping me to see him so I can better handle the difficult moments life brings.