Remember when we stopped everything on a Monday and the world didn’t end?
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How to live in the flat places of spiritual life
I am going to confess a few things that sting, here.
Number one: I’m not very good about stopping by for a visit. I know it’s the right thing to do. I know Jesus has laid on us the ministry of one person, simply the next one in our path, the next one we see in the store or welcome in our home, the one we interact with online, and the one we stop by to visit. I rarely do that last one because I am selfish and my internal clock tick-tick-ticks with errands and paperwork and the potential to get everything crossed off the list.
I’m selfish and oblivious to the blessings I’m missing.
Confession number two: my spiritual life is rather flat right now, the kind of flat that doesn’t set off any alarms or call for the church elders (and I live with one, so I don’t get away with much). This is the flat of a long obedience in the same direction, of twenty plus years of good, deep studies, retreats, prayer meetings, and general, forward progression; the kind of flat I fear I could roll through for the rest of my life, if unchallenged. It’s the flat that you arrive at after you’ve exhausted the rules of Good Christian Behavior, and still Jesus hasn’t returned for you.
I know some of you can relate.
I have not arrived anywhere, spiritually, that I should be able to back off now and rest on my laurels. I know there are areas of growth left for me, thank God. This flat place is a high plateau from where I can see the valley below, the steady climb, and the mountains ahead, still touching clouds. So the fact that I am in a flat place is not me, being complacent. I’m not content to stay here.
Confession number three: along with flatness and selfishness, I confess that I don’t get as excited about God’s Word as I used to, as I should, as I want to. All those things. This goes along with being flat, obviously.
I don’t need tricks or adrenaline boosts when I read the Word, but I would like insight, to have my eyes opened to see wondrous things from His Word. I miss the discovery. I miss the application. I miss the sharpness of words dividing my own self right between joints and marrow. I miss it all because I’m flat.
Or, I’m flat because I miss so much.
The good thing is, though my feelings sometimes cut ties with reality and my symptoms exaggerate the cause (am I doomed? ignored by God? self-deceived?) the solution to each of these problems is the same: God has ordered my life with just the right people.
There are certain people you hang around who remind you or spur you on in different areas of life, simply by the way they are living theirs. I have Exercise Friends, Food Friends, Garden Friends, Parenting Friends, Smart Friends, etc. These are generally all Jesus Friends, too. They love the Lord and pray for me or counsel me when I ask.
The really close friends counsel me even when I don’t ask.
I have Word Friends and being with them makes me want to crack open the scriptures and get out my notebook, to mine and stack gold nuggets right out of flat land to the hills beyond. They bring out brick upon brick of insight from the Word and I leave their presence encouraged—this really is the way and it really is the life-giving stuff I was looking for.
I visited a friend last week who has been an Exercise Friend, a Parenting Friend, a Smart Friend and a Word Friend over the course of our friendship, and we caught up on life because it has taken us in different directions the last few years. Our paths are converging again, and it turns out we are viewing the same mountains ahead from the same level ground under us. We talked about long obedience, doing things right, raising kids, and being flat.
What came together for me in our visit was something she said about a third person, a sister who is dedicated to the Word of God and is constantly searching the scriptures. This is the good kind of talking-about-someone, and we were both able to see a rope out of flatland offered by this person’s example. Her faithfulness to be in the Word is working a manifold gift in not only her life, but the lives of those who observe her.
That’s what we do—we observe one another, for better or worse, and this is our reminder that whatever we are passionate about is leaking over to those around us. For all our flaws and downfalls, a generally healthy person has an image of God to offer the world. This is the way it was meant to be.
The way to live in this flat place is not to isolate myself, but to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the things I’m lacking, to catch their fire and at the same time, kindle what might be waning in them.
A collective life. A church together. What a novel idea.
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