This post records some additional thoughts about the podcast “Stop Doing”. Located on The God Journey site: www.theGodJourney.com
What’s our part in this process of getting God’s love for us from our head to our heart? Believers can usually find mental agreement to the assertion that “God loves you”. But experiencing the deep assurance of His delight and enjoyment of us as His children in our hearts requires more than our agreement; it requires our participation. A couple quotes from the letters Wayne and Brad shared:
“How do I live there? I feel that sitting around waiting for the change to come is accomplishing nothing. What are the things I should be doing to get this through to my heart?” From another letter: “How do you make the jump from head to heart? We know Jesus loves us, because the Bible tells us so. We hear Thomas Merton’s words and yours and recognize their truth.” Wayne response: “I think the whole part of that program performance based mindset is “OK, I now see what I want, what do I do to make that happen?” The heart of the righteousness that faith produces is sitting before God and saying “I can’t do this, no matter how hard I try. I can’t do what God wants to make real in my heart.”
I was reminded a few months ago about something I said in my brash and self-confident young adulthood. I remember telling my pastor “Just tell me what to do to live the Christian life and I will do it!” So I join Wayne in whining about how many years it took me to see that was the wrong tree to be barking up. Thankfully, very thankfully, my pastor didn’t respond to my ignorantly sincere request. Instead, he encouraged me to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to me. But it still took years! J I share this by way of background to segue into my thoughts about how Wayne and Brad responded to these questions.
What I heard on the podcast was a bit unclear and possibly confusing. I want to help by thinking here about this question. Paul Young, author of The Shack, said something in his interview on the God Journey about salvation being spoken of in three verb tenses in the bible. The actions that Jesus did on the cross and the actions He will do in the future at the end of the age to bring us into our full inheritance are His alone. But the present tense activity of His transforming work in us requires our participation. Briefly, what He is offering us is a relationship, one in which we must participate willingly and with conscious intention. To be known by Him in the way that truly meets our deepest needs requires us to open ourselves to His involvement in our lives. He brings the power and the initiative to transform us, but we retain the awesome responsibility to respond and choose to open the door to His knocking.
The Reformation placed such a heavy emphasis on salvation by faith alone that the notion of personal transformation through a dynamic relationship with the living Lord Jesus was marginalized, even minimized. In our current day when we grapple with the question of the nature of our participation, there exists even still such a strong influence to pull toward describing our part in terms of “grace through faith alone” that our participation in the transformation process is expressed with the same kind of passive cognitive belief constructs that define faith as mental assent. It stays in our heads and doesn’t get to our hearts! Ordering off that menu gets us hamburger instead of filet!
But there is a trap lurking for anyone who begins to articulate anything that resembles a “program” or hints of “performance” to move towards heart transformation. The aversion to legalism hobbles people from engaging in a robust pursuit of God! Yet, I don’t think we can expect to see spiritual heart transformation by “sitting around waiting for change to come” as the dear sister wrote to Wayne in her letter and attests to.
Over the past couple weeks I have listened to about twelve hours of teaching audio from Dallas Willard and audio from a five-session Renovare conference with Richard Foster. If you know of these men you will recall that they both have written well-received books about the spiritual disciplines. Both of them taught in these sessions about the benefits of the spiritual disciplines of Solitude and Silence! And then what I heard Wayne and Brad articulating sounded strikingly similar: (the numbers are the location on the MP3 file. The text is not word for word but very close.)
· 31:57 How does it happen? When He speaks. You can’t hear his voice without Him speaking. The reality is that I can’t control that. There is not a button that I can push: Speak, God! It’s more like I can make myself available. Get into some space that helps allow that to happen. For the most part this is really getting into some space, getting away for a bit, even if it’s to take a half hour walk. But creating a space for that to happen. Our harried world existence where we’re running from one responsibility to another responsibility doesn’t allow for the space for revelation to happen. It doesn’t take going up to a mountain and praying for 24 hours, but it does help taking a little bit of space in your life for that opportunity to happen
· 34:23 I think rest opens up space and not being afraid, and not being harried. Even if it means going in a room for 15 minutes, close the door and say “Jesus, would you make yourself known to me?” Creating that space to me opens up the opportunity for us to know love that way.
· 37:58 The heart of the righteousness that faith produces is sitting before God and saying “I can’t do this, no matter how hard I try. I can’t do what God wants to make real in my heart.” That is a great place of faith. I’m now at peace with the fact that I can’t get there.
· 39:56 That can be a real place of peace, not self-pity, self-loathing, or frustration. It’s liberating, because now I can stop doing all the stupid things that I have been doing for all these years to try to make this happen in my heart, and now just do the one thing I can do, which is to say “Jesus, would you do this in me?” It’s coming to a place of acceptance, not defiance. It’s coming to place of relaxed rest that God is big enough to do this in me, and I’m not big enough to do this in myself. So I’m going to stop trying, and I’m going to learn to listen and learn to live loved.
· 42:35 “To some degree, until you stop all you are doing, how in the world are you even going to be able to see what He’s doing? I really think that in all of the flurry of our well-intentioned activity, I am so aware of what I am doing, that I am least aware of what He’s doing. But if your identity is wrapped up in what you’re doing, it’s almost impossible to stop. That is where the Holy Spirit is first nudging our heart. Pull back, your identity is not based on your doing, your security as a believer is not based on all the things you’re doing, but we’ve been taught that it is. But until I stop doing, I may not start seeing.
· “But it begins with him. It’s empowered by him. I have to get to the place where I settle myself and open my eyes and open my ears and ask “help me see where this is.” It’s only when I know that I’m not doing this that I can be aware of the activity He is doing. And then I do start to feel loved. I start to perceive an activity that I couldn’t otherwise. That is where living loved begins, in that space.”
There are intentional actions that we can take to create that space for God to speak! Both Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have written and spoken extensively about those actions that we can take. Do we invoke God to action by our preparations or make Him obligated? No, ours is the action of humble servants, like the wise maidens who trimmed their lamps and were ready when the bridegroom arrived. We do have our part in the great dance of relationship with God. There have been earnest disciples in every age that we can learn from as we ask God to guide us on our journey.
There may be some materials from these other sources from which you can benefit. (I certainly have appreciated the other voices and viewpoints seeking to describe this Life that He offers!) The audio tracks I mentioned are downloadable for free at http://christianaudio.com search on Willard and Foster. A page with links to Willard’s other audio teachings is here: http://www.dwillard.org/resources/audio.asp