In his book, Extravagant Mercy, (one of my favorite devotionals) Craig Barnes explains: “The Bible often portrays the grace of God as a thin stream of refreshing water that perseveres in a desert land. The only way our parched souls can survive in a spiritually desolate society is to stay close to the stream. That is why we come to worship, read our Bibles, serve others, and pray without ceasing throughout the day. It’s all a way of drinking in the grace that keeps us spiritually alive. The more time we spend by that stream, the more deeply our lives become rooted in God”[i] (Emphasis mine).
I love the way Barnes describes the Christian life: not in terms of “doing” so as to achieve something but as living from a place of receiving. Galatians 5:5 says, “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope” (Emphasis mine). The abundant life for which we hope comes by pure grace…it’s a work of the Holy Spirit.
We need to let go of the death grip we have on “maintaining a vital relationship with God.” I know it sounds heretical. Our Christian culture is always handing advice on us how to “live the victorious Christian life” or “how to develop overcoming faith.” When it’s up to us to make the Christian life “work,” however, we become more concerned about fixing problems, mastering principles, and racking up “brownie” points and we drift further and further from the stream.
Once we realize, however, we can’t control, manipulate, or manage spiritual reality, we can only receive it, we develop other things like quiet, attentive hearts and other ways we can stay focused and alive to the life Jesus died to give us.
As one of my life group members so succinctly wrote: ….there isn’t anything but to get close to the stream, take a drink and be available. The result of this continual availability to the Spirit is the ability to love God more intimately. And the love toward others will naturally flow from one who is aligned with God.
Exactly…and this is such a balancing act. That drivenness seemed so productive and “this-will-get-me-closer-to-God” for so many years when I was in my 20s. Not to say it was all in vain, mind you. And then it was to just sit back and ride the tide of my spirituality until I finally got introduced to this “solitude” concept. And yet the challenge for me is the balance between doing (something) and attending to God in a more close-to-the-stream like manner. I feel so blessed to be getting a grasp of this “thing” now. And I love this “thing” of abiding, attending, reflecting, waiting (OK I don’t like the waiting so much). It is actually quite freeing, but does not happen without effort
[i] M. Craig Barnes, An Extravagant Mercy, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Publications, 2003), p. 8