Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Awe and Friendship

I have noticed that there is a difference between being amazed and in awe of God and actually getting to know him.

It's not that awe and wonder is an emotionless experience because it isn't. I read or I think or I hear, and I exult. And the exulting is good for something. It causes me to want to submit to God more, to distrust sins advances more and it enables me to hold my head up higher in a secular society. There are times when I'm so pumped on wonder and so convinced about God's goodness and intellectual viability that I could look a mouth-frothing neo-atheist in the eye and lovingly remind him 'Jesus loves you.'

There is great joy and confidence in exulting in God, but that doesn't necessarily lead to deeper levels of actual friendship, emanating out in actual conversation in the form of actual prayer.

Take an example from just the other day. I dropped Amy off at the dentists and I could tell she was feeling anxious about the trip, that she was in pain caused by her tooth. I could tell - because she told me. As I sat there and heard her hesitations about the dentist, and as she explained the pain she was feeling I thought to myself 'I should pray for her.' But my very next thought was 'nah, it probably wouldn't do anything. Besides, I'm on an errand and can't be bothered to bother her with prayer.' and so instead of praying I grimaced (my facial recognition that empathy was appropriate) and then waved her goodbye safe in the knowledge that 'the dentist will sort it out.'

That story isn't meant to only illustrate my ineptitude as a pastor-husband (although it does that), but to point out this awareness that awe and wonder doesn't by necessity, deepen friendship. That morning I'd reflected on scripture, I'd had my soul stirred by some book I'd been reading, the electrical storm in my mind had crackled and fizzed at God's glory. I wasn't feeling doubtful or dead to God generally, but then neither was I willing to engage emotionally with him.

Friendship with God, for me, looks like walking in the hills by my house and talking to him. It looks like breathing out (involuntarily) statements of appreciation and gratitude toward him. Friendship with God looks like emotionally investing in our relationship, it looks like bringing him to bear on my moment-to-moment existence. Intimacy with him is life-giving, joy-full and optimistic. It's full of all the feelings of enthusiasm and madness that normal human intimacy involves. I can sit and discuss the stars with him, pour out my incomprehension at his apparent indifference to my sister's plight or my own self-centredness. Friendship with him means being aware of his company and being ready in a moment to respond to his promptings or involve him in a situation. Friendship with him is different from awe at him.

It's one thing for my mind to glory in him, it's another for my life to involve him.

I love exulting in him and learning more about him and his world. I am richer intellectually and emotionally and I am more robust spiritually because I have had my mind filled by him and by thoughts of his world that have done me good. But that is not the same as closeness and inter connectedness with him.

Both are good but there's only one that Jesus prayed for us to experience (see John 17).

So embrace a intellectually full Christian life, take heed of C.S. Lewis' advice that immaturity/weak faith for the Christian is the result of not thinking deeply enough. But see it as a doorway toward deeper levels of friendship and closer moments of acquaintance with the God who made you for himself.

Reading and reflecting and listening and exulting can bring joy for the moment and strength for the duration but only the slow drawn out process of living with God can bring you what your soul needs most of all.

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