“The eternal life of which Jesus speaks is not knowledge about God, but an intimately interactive relationship with him.” – Dallas Willard
The song by folksinger Karen Money touches me every time I hear it. She sings, “. . . all I long for most is mine when He draws close to me.”
What is it you long for most? Surely we long for God’s gifts, including joy, peace, blessings, and answered prayers, but at some point we find our deepest longing is for God himself and not just his gifts. We desire . . .
To have a heart-stirring awareness of his presence
To know he’s leading our thoughts and decisions
To receive his love in life-changing ways
To be amazed at his holiness and power
If this kind of closeness to our Creator becomes our experience, we want it again and again. Why? Because that vibrant, feeling-level relationship with God is what satisfies the deepest needs we have. He truly is the One we long for most.
The amazing thing to me is that Jesus has the same longings for intimacy with us. He wants it so much he came to earth, lived with humans, gave himself to a terrifying death so we could relate to him. Coming to him for salvation is only the first step. After that, not to respond to his ongoing presence by communicating with him constantly is to reject the relationship he desires even more than we do.
Our acknowledgment of his unseen presence is what we need to meet our deepest longings. Every moment of every day, knowing he is with me, I want to be engaged in mental or verbal conversation with him, inviting him into my activities, decisions, and relationships. That interaction thrills us both!
“Come near to God and he will come near to you.” – James 4:8
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalm 91:1
Sometimes when I pray, I know how I want God to answer. So I’m specific and, honestly, any answer other than the one I’m praying for will not be acceptable to me. Do you ever do that? We sometimes forget that God’s perspective is better than ours! He knows things we cannot possibly know.
Centuries ago, people asked Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction about their going to Egypt. Jeremiah gave them God’s answer: They should stay in Israel where He would keep them safe. Their response? They call Jeremiah a liar! The problem was they were already packed to go before they asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted. There was only one answer acceptable to them and they weren’t hearing it from Jeremiah, so they were angry. What they didn’t know was Babylon was on the move and soon would war with Egypt and the refugee Israelis would get caught in the crossfire. They could not see at all what God could see clearly.
Sometimes we struggle with giving control to God, trusting His direction. When we pray about a problem and we know what we want the answer to be, we would be wise to tell God that, though we desire to have our prayer answered our way, we are willing to accept His answer, whatever it is. That’s a safe prayer because
He sees what we cannot see,
His answers are always for our best good, and
He walks beside us when we’re willing to go His way.
“What I think and feel as I pray, rather than the words I speak, may be the real prayer, for God ‘hears’ that too.” – Philip Yancey
“Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.” – Revelation 3:20 (The Message)
God seems to love being part of our ordinary lives. Here’s how we know: After Jesus died and was raised from the tomb, He kept showing up. And it seems these visits were most often in the places where everyday life was happening: on the road, at a meal, or at work.
Remember the story when Jesus walked with two sad disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24)? He listened to their story of the death of the one they thought was going to be their Messiah. As they walked, He explained to them all the prophecies fulfilled in His life, but they still didn’t realize who He was.
When they stopped for supper, Jesus acted as if He was going to keep traveling, but His two companions asked Him to stay with them. And He did. As a result of that meal, their hearts were warmed, and their minds were opened to understand that God Himself was at their table. He didn’t let them see who He really was until they invited Him to dinner.
Jesus still shows up, but He is a gentleman. He doesn’t push into our lives. He waits for us to acknowledge His presence, to talk to Him, to include Him even in our routine activities. He is with us – at work, on the road, at meals, at play, and at rest. Let’s not ignore Him. Ordinary turns to extraordinary when Jesus is there!
“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts” – A. W. Tozer
“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11
It is impossible for us to have an ordinary day. God has plans for us and for the people around us. He is at work whether we see it or not. Remember Abraham? He welcomed three strangers into his tent and then found out that two were angels and one was Jesus Himself! They were presenting themselves, at least at first, as ordinary travelers. But they were anything but ordinary.
In fact, C. S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. . .” He goes on to explain that we see only the surface of people. If we could actually see their eternal natures, Lewis says we would be tempted either to worship them or run from them. There is much more to every human being than we can possibly imagine.
Because of that, there is unseen value in our moments and our days. We cannot understand the impact of each personal engagement or individual circumstance we will face today, but, in light of eternity, each has the possibility of being extraordinary in some unseen way.
Our encounters are a unique part of God’s plan for this world and the one to come. There are no ordinary people. There are no ordinary days. Let’s fully engage the one in front of us!
“Life would be easy if providential hours declared themselves, if they met us radiant and with uplifted look and crying ‘I am one of thy great hours’. But they never meet us in a guise like that – never betray their greatness by their bearing. We hear no sound of approaching footsteps. Thy footsteps are unknown.” – George Herbert Morris
“If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C. S. Lewis
“The soul can split the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
There is another world intersecting with ours every day. We usually are oblivious to it, but I am learning that we don’t have to be.
Jesus is the door to that world and we often feel closest to it when we pray, or praise, or think on His Word. Another key component for me, though, has been in practicing awareness:
God reveals a little of Himself in the flower we hold, in the waves of the sea, or in the stars on cloudless night. Are we paying attention to His creation?
God’s image is in every person we meet, though they may not know it. Are we aware? Are we looking for Him in them?
There is a bigger purpose behind everything we do and everything that happens to us. Can we sense it?
As we become more and more attuned to the intersecting world, we realize how absolutely real it is. It makes the world we see, as C. S. Lewis also says, seem like “only shadows” of the reality that exists. What is truly amazing is that God sometimes pulls back the curtain to give our souls a glimpse of the invisible. It is then we realize that our deepest desires can be met only in the world we cannot see. A taste leaves us longing for more. Awareness, living mindfully, can help us see the unseen.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18