It was during all of the (absolutely incredible and I wish I could nerd rant about how cool they were) “get to know you” activities that I began to question my little ten minute devotional I had written. There was no heart in it, no real call to action. It was all facts and criticism. I was reminded about something Dr. Hayse said in Honors Seminar. I have to paraphrase him but it was basically that criticism is easy but offering a practical solution to the problem is hard.
As we moved into the night to play volleyball and board games I began to worry about it more and more. I wanted so badly to shine for ten minutes of informative Jesus glory but I knew my material was flat. I tried to talk myself out of caring, but it morphed into praying when St. John explained the spiritual discipline the group was going to be practicing that night.
He asked us to not say a word to one another or even talk out loud at all for the rest of the night and into the next morning. Silence shows reverence to God, respect. He also urged us to quiet our minds. I was utterly confused about that even being a human possibility. My mind runs a million miles an hour, I constantly have dozens of things on my mind at a time but as we walked into the dark chapel my thoughts slowly began to lessen.
Its difficult to describe exactly what happened. I encourage you to try it some time though I can never promise God will act the same way twice. After our allotted prayer time we were told that we could stay in the chapel and pray or read our bible. I situated myself in the very back and began to pray, then just let my mind be quiet. The next thing I knew God started bringing aspects of my life that I needed to give to him to mind. In order to keep my mind quiet I had to give each thing to him as he brought them to me until everything that I was worrying about was gone. I opened my eyes to find myself alone in this big beautiful building, the only lights shining were on the crucifix up front and on the alter.
It was 1:00 in the morning.
God never agrees with my time table.
It was at that point that I began to rewrite. I opened my notebook, wrote what was on my heart, then at almost 2am I was allowed to sleep.
I woke up without a care in the world. It was an experience I haven’t had since starting high school. 8:30am rolled around, my friends and professors came into the chapel. We read scripture, we worshiped, and I got up to the pew and got to tell people what God put on my heart.
I shared from Jeremiah 29. I am unable to tell you exactly what I said because I threw out my typed manuscript, but basically I talked about how Christians today aren’t all that different from God’s people historically. We have a pattern of being exiled in a foreign land and then called out again. In Jeremiah, God is talking to his people in exile in Babylon. Since we, members of God’s Kingdom, are living here on earth, we are (in essence) exiles as well and thus, I figured since God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that his instructions to his people in exile in Babylon apply to us today.
God basically told them to settle down and work for Babylon, allow themselves to live life there, and called them to work and pray for their country of exile because their lives for the time being were bound up in that nation. However, God then warned about the false prophets and teachings of Babylon, telling his people not to be fooled by thinking their version of good was what God defined as good. He then gave his famous “for I know the plans I have for you” bit and promised to answer them when they called on him and to eventually lead them out of exile.
My devotional was about not allowing our standard for Christian behavior to be set by the culture, becoming comfortable and then being afraid of asking for God’s instructions because our God is one who cares much more about our character than he does about our comfort. I said that when we allow ourselves to use God’s standard to evaluate our lives we are no longer comfortable living as socially accepted Christians. I feel like we can be living in and working for our country of exile for so long that we begin to adopt their ideas as our own, and when we adopt these ideas God calls us to act contrary to them, and when God asks us to act contrary to them we have a crisis of faith, being unwilling to take the risk that God asked us to do. And when we don’t want to take the risk we stop asking God to give us instructions, and when we stop asking God to give us instructions God can grow quiet.
I don’t want to live in a world with a quiet God.
And so I called for two things.
- That we would begin to develop a holy discontent for the amount of God’s presence we allow in our day to day lives. I want to be a part of God’s church that has the same revolutionary impact and supernatural power as the church in Acts, but I was convicted, realizing I wasn’t even praying for it.
- That we would pray without fear of God messing up our lives. I had found myself avoiding prayer because I thought God would ask me to risk something, that he would make me uncomfortable. I have to stop questioning God’s attempts to make me uncomfortable and start questioning why I allowed myself to get comfortable in the first place.
Some people told me my devotional was really good. I was thankful for their compliments, but really I think it did me more good than it could have done anybody else. I loved it. I loved speaking about what I’m passionate about. I cannot believe the incredible opportunities MNU allows me to have. I got the opportunity to be completely scared out of my mind, learn to listen to the spirit, and get the practical experience of giving a devotional to a room full of professors and future ministers. In all technicality, this retreat was just one large class session. I got points for going, I think. But this was only one example of a time when the boundaries between class and “real life” went away and “school work” became God’s way of doing some “life work” on me.