I committed my life to Christ in 1995 while watching Charles Stanley preach on TV one Sunday morning. I was as sincere as I could be. I wanted to know Jesus. Shortly after that, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me to serve in an administrative position at a church. Even though it was less money, I considered it a step up and indeed it was! Thus began this crazy journey with Jesus of the last 23 years.
Like many, I was a very enthusiastic beginner. I read the Bible and lots of books on the Christian life. I attended church and I led Bible studies and I served in many ways. It was exhilarating! I was fascinated. God was wooing me. I learned a lot about Him. And…I learned to recognize His voice, mostly through reading Scripture…that still small voice that leads us and guides us. It was fantastic! It was miraculous! In the beginning…
In 2001 I stepped out in faith and left my church position to spend time in England at a church on the cutting edge of ministry. I went to learn how to do ministry in a more impactful way. It turned out to the best year of my life and the worst year of my life.
It was the worst year of my life because the Lord led me into a “dark night of the soul”. After experiencing such a joyful time in my faith journey in the beginning…I could no longer sense that God was with me at all. It was a painful time of stripping away all that I relied on instead of Him for a sense of self-worth. It was a time of testing and it revealed what was really in me. It was dark and terrible.
It was the best year of my life because it changed me from the inside out and it was a complete work of grace. I could not do anything to help myself…the Lord had hemmed me in…on all sides. I was powerless to move. I could only sit and contemplate. I wasn’t given a choice. No work. No ministry. No way to prove myself worthy to anyone in any way. I was learning to “be” rather than “do”. It’s counter cultural, it’s humbling. It’s like dying. I became acutely aware of my brokenness before God…and the fragility of my corrupt and wounded soul. Up to that point, my relationship with God was all about what I could do FOR Him. That began to change. I would never approach the work of ministry in the same way again.
In 2003 I moved to California to attend Fuller Seminary. On the tail end of my dark night of the soul, I was still a bit raw. I had been broken to pieces by God and was slowly being reconstructed. I read countless books and attended countless lectures…but it was one single class on leadership that put everything regarding the dark night of the soul into perspective for me. The class was not about leadership strategies…the “doing” part. It was about how the Lord breaks a leader and teaches them about the true source of power for ministry…learning to “be”. It was about forming the spirit of a person. It was about how ministry flows out of being. “Being” has to come before “doing”. Everything in our culture says just the opposite. The world keeps us busy, preoccupied, distracted and the noise level is always high. It’s in learning simply to “be” that we get to KNOW God.
Most people seem to be content only knowing ABOUT God…perhaps because they’re not aware there is more. I came out of the dark night of the soul wanting to KNOW God…not just know about Him. I sensed the Lord challenging me to push into the mystery more.
After seminary I went back into church ministry. Eighteen months later, I resigned. Something was missing. There had to be more! I took a job at a retreat center in a forest on the beach of South Carolina. My objective…to seek God simply for who He is and not what He could do for me. I wanted to know Him. I thought a quiet place in nature would help. For the most part, I stopped praying with words and spent time simply learning to sit in the presence of God and enjoy Him. This didn’t come easy…it wasn’t natural. It took some effort. But it did not disappoint. It changed my relationship with God forever and changed the trajectory of my life. It’s still not easy but when I sit in complete silence and think about God…His presence lights me up on the inside. It’s sweet. It’s love. It’s why Jesus came and died for me…that I might KNOW God and enjoy Him. It puts the world in its proper perspective.
In the coming months, this blog will shift focus from Uganda to knowing God through contemplative prayer. I am feeling compelled to share and write about this. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just a beginner myself. I suspect many Christians wonder if their current experience of God is all there is and how very few people have any sense of the presence of God with them at any given time. Yet we know that those who believe have the Spirit of God abiding on the inside of them. Why do so many still feel that God is out there somewhere, far from them? Why do they see so little transformation in their inner lives? We don’t know how to “be” with God. Being with God changes us. And changed people…people who know how to “be” first, become significant “doers” for the Kingdom of God.
We live in a crazy world and it’s getting crazier by the day. The evil one has perfected the art of distracting our attention away from God. The ways are too numerous to count. Yet, rest assured…God is near…closer than your breadth. Let’s learn to “be” with Him. There is more!
“We are already in the presence of God…what is absent is awareness.” Richard Rohr