There comes a time in the believer’s life when we stand at the precipice. We have found our way up the mountain, guided and urged by our Lord, and as we step through the mist, we find ourselves standing at the edge. There is no longer any sound or feeling of comfort, just an uncertain turn which we have found ourselves in. Abandoned.
I know this feeling. I feel that, for a time, I’ve stood, legs hanging off the edge, looking down into the darkness, shrouded by heavy grey clouds, asking God, “Why did You bring me here? Where are You?” And looking down into the abyss, there seems to be no light and no direction.
I think sometimes I get lost in the religious experience, the feeling of wonder that God provides for me and has provided for me for some time. It’s that magical first moment of understanding who you are in relation to God, to His Son and what He did for you, and the immense amount of love that pours forth from Him in that exchange of love and grace. We chase that feeling, nursed by His compassion for us, sometimes oblivious to the world and the tedium of normalcy: bills, finding a better job, or even when life calls you to a new chapter. But when, somehow, that nursing ends, we race around searching for the bottle that once fed us- a new experience, a new way to continually feel His presence. Sometimes we do, but I can’t help but think that it just puts off the inevitable, the precipice.
Darin McWatters of Rock Harbor once said, “We are a generation that collects religious experience rather than being obedient to God.” I believe he is right.
I once told my friend, Jon, of Theology21 that all my heart longs for is to chase God, that I would lock myself away in a monastery if I could and just be in His presence if I could. But I don’t think that is what God calls us to; He calls us into the world.
Time and again, Christ tells us to go into the world, to make disciples of men and to be obedient, and warns us that, even in our obedience, we will suffer. Paul tells us to be joyful even in our suffering and persecution. John Piper said that it is our Joy in suffering that shows Christ, to the world and our separation from it, but we are afraid because we are already suffering on the edge, feeling lost from the spiritual umbilical cord we once were attached to.
We stand at the ledge and there is nowhere to go but forward. Can this really be? He led us here, to this place. If we believe that He has our lives because we have followed Him, then this is where He has led us. Why? To be obedient, and jump.
But He hasn’t told us where to jump.
There. Into the unknown.
Obedience does not always call us to know where, or why. It just tells us to go.
In Numbers chapters 13 and 14, the Israelites found themselves at the border of Canaan, the land God had promised them. Because of their fear of the giant inhabitants, they did not enter and wandered for another 40 years. Of all of them, only two men were allowed to enter, Caleb and Joshua, the two men in chapter 14 who said yes to obedience. Through the desert, God had guided them, and shown His power in Egypt. He had shown them that He was present and that He had chosen them as His people, but staring into the unknown, wanting more, they didn’t enter the land God had offered them.
There comes a time when God will wean us from our constant heavy nursing as we once experienced it. He has made known His love and His presence; now it is a time for us to be obedient and face the frightening giants that await us. It is facing these things with Joy that makes us distinct and holy; it is what glorifies Him.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us of these spiritual gifts: prophecy, tongues, and working miracles, but of these, the greatest are faith, hope and love, and the greatest of those is Love. All others are partial and Paul says they will end, but with these three, we can cast ourselves into the unknown; Love, the greatest, shall endure us. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; but when I was an adult I put childish things away.” There comes a time when all that we have is faith, hope and Love.
My friend and pastor, Jason Miller, once told me that much of what we understand as our walk is like bookends holding together books that tell a story. Each end is Love. Before the story begins, it starts with Love, which, in turn, begins a story, and it ends in Love as well. The books of our lives with God cannot hold up without this, and they cannot begin without it; the story happens because of it. Like a marriage, the details aren’t worked out beforehand, the how and why: two people are married because of love, and love begins the story which edifies the beginning and end.
Our stories began with Love, God calling us, romancing us, but our story must edify Him in our obedience to that Love, and so we must cast ourselves out into the abyss, seeing where His love will ultimately take us. We are not abandoned; the doors will open and close and He will show us the way.
The experiences will come and go; probably in time, we will be able to look back and see how He worked in the story of our romance, but it is the obedience to move forward that allows for true intimate feelings with Him to occur. Choose a direction and go, and He will show the way, for He has brought us to the edge, so now we must jump.