“Take surprise out of faith and all that is left is dry and dead religion. Take away, mystery from the gospel and all that is left is a frozen and petrified dogma. Lose your awe of God and you are left with an impotent deity. Abandon astonishment and you are left with meaningless piety. When religion is characterized by sameness, when faith is franchised, when the genuineness of our experience with God is evaluated by its similarities to others’ faith, then the uniqueness of God’s people is dead and the church is lost.” Michael Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder, p. 29.
“How can this be?” Mary asked the angel who foretold the birth of Christ who would be born through her. God taking on flesh. Such a thought! Wonder of all wonders. Inconceivable. Incomprehendable.
Two thousand years later, we continue to ask, “How can this be?” Immanuel-God with us. God’s presence is no longer mediated by bricks and mortar but now resides in us. God is no longer out there; he dwells in us by faith (Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27; 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; James 4:5; Romans 8:9; 2 Tim. 1:14). Such marvelous mystery! Christ came not only to save us from our sins but to live in us and make available to us an abundant, interactive, life with God who is actively present in our lives.
Dan Taylor writes, “The goal of faith is not to create a set of immutable, rationalized, precisely defined and defendable beliefs to preserve forever. It is to recover a relationship with God.” It is not about mastering principles or trying to harness tips and techniques of the spiritual life. Nor is it about performance or hoops for us to jump through; there are no steps to ascend; no moral pattern of right living in hopes to achieve some measure of acceptability. That is the difference between belief system and a living faith.
And wonder is the only adequate launching pad to keep our eyes wide open and alive to the life God is bringing to us. To throw our lives open to the transforming grace of God will require being comfortable with a process we cannot fully understand. It will be messy, at times, maddening, and will take some measure of surrender to what we thought this life would look like and where it will take us. The challenge of this with-God life is that it involves not a finite set of facts to know but, rather, a mysterious and unknowable life to enter—by faith…filled with wonder.
The alternative, however, is that we can have all the right answers, and miss God’s transforming presence altogether.
I love what one the gals in my spiritual formation group wrote, “I understand that this journey is about a life with God, sitting with Him, reflecting Him to others, receiving and giving grace, being changed by Him alone. It is a mystery that I cannot grasp that He does that in me, quietly and gently, when I steal away with Him.”
Questions for Reflection:
What are some words that could best describe your life with God?
Do they describe a belief system or a grace-filled life with God?