You can’t defy the Creator.
Don’t think in terms of absolutes or you’ll never get this. God operates on the basis of proximity in His Creation. So you will find yourself in relative terms close to or far from Him, and like any genuine living relationship, it varies with the context. The point is that you can’t stand in His place, but you can sit in His lap. Or, you can just wander off. There are boundaries of a sort out there, and crossing them means He takes certain actions, but by the time you test the limits you are no longer in a position to know what He thinks.
The image of sitting in His lap is contextual; it signals a level of closeness based on our commitment to His Person. You don’t stay there. You go out and take care of His business, and then return to commune with Him in whatever degree of closeness you strive to hold. You don’t get closer by success, but by desire and surrender. It’s personal; success matters, but it’s more of an effect than a cause of closeness.
What we see around us now is hardly what He intended. By no means could anyone put into words exactly what the situation is, but Scripture offers more of that same imagery indicating some useful structure, some way of grasping enough of it that we can decide and act on it usefully. One of the first things we have to grasp is that you can’t really trust your intellect to handle much more than mere planning and implementation of our human response. None of this can even begin without making sure the mind has stepped down from the presumption of ruling.
In fact, the mind is both the best tool and worst enemy we have in the endeavor to serve the Creator. A lot of stuff can happen before we come to this place of sensing a need to draw near to Him, and that stuff can create a pervasive conditioning in the mind, a matrix of assumptions and expectations that are false. Not utterly false in every exhaustive detail, but false enough to confuse us. So we end up stumbling along in some measure of darkness, trying to feel our way along. Part of what we find includes doubting what is already on our maps.
In that sense, I am in the same boat as the rest of humanity. We are all exploring what God made and gave to each of us, and trying to gain a better grasp of what it is. The mere interest itself signals that we grasp on some level that what we live with now is not what God had in mind for us. This is not what He designed us for and not how things ought to be. It’s rather like exploring and mapping the territory of reality, though with the complication that no two of us will ever draw exactly the same map. Each of us has our own territory, as it were. Naturally the nature of the terrain does overlap; God tends to do things rather consistently between one creature and the next. Still, there is a level of variation that we have to figure into our mapping, in the sense that we become aware of others.
As pastor of this virtual parish, a part of my map is a calling to understand the mapping process itself. I’m a cartographer or sorts; I try to understand and teach mapping to others. I’ll show you my map on the premise that yours will differ in details.
A handful of you have availed yourselves of this service. You’ve written emails or called me and told me of your confusing explorations. So far, I’ve been able to help most of you who asked, although it wasn’t always quickly. Still, it appears God has chosen to give me some insight into this process of feeling our way along the broad territory of blessings He granted us. And when you come back to me with the inevitable rejoicing over your better grasp of things in your world, it makes my heart sing. If this were the only joy in my life, this would be enough.
Granted, sometimes it’s not a monumental breakthrough for you. Most of the time it will be just a minor refinement. Again, if this were the best I could offer, it would be pretty good joy by itself. It would be enough to help me drive through all the stuff I run into keeping the mapping school open and teaching. Once in a while I need to hear back from you. Don’t think I’m begging for some outpouring of feedback all at once. This is not a “make the pastor feel good” post. Rather, I’m asking you to be aware that, even if we are comparing notes on our different understandings, it helps me keep going with joy. Also, be aware that the extravagant batch of recent donations says a lot in itself. God is at work in and through you folks and it’s hard to express my gratitude.
However, you should never get the impression I’m bugging you to contact me without God prompting it. There is one good reason for that: I’m driven very hard to keep searching and writing and posting it where you can read it. This goes beyond obsession in the sense that none of this arises from my human desire. I can’t be silent. If I were the only person reading it, this ministry would continue one way or another. That was the basis on which this blog was started. I’m just tickled that it seems to have touched a few other lives and I can at least imagine myself as a conduit for His glory.
I’m not giving you anything God didn’t already place in your soul. The answers are already in you. If you are hearing from God in the first place, all I can do is help you with the mapping as you feel your way across the terrain of your own existence. I refuse to take credit for anything more than that. Some of you could just as easily help me find my way, as well. That’s how it works; that’s part of the common terrain we all share as humans. I’m painting signs to point out features you might not notice and I want to see the ones you paint.
When we seek His face as Lord, He delivers to us more than we could ever hope to discover.