Greetings Family and Friends…and a special welcome to those of you who are new to this “Of the Imitation of Christ” journey. Let us recap a little…
What began as a weekly journey of paraphrasing and reflecting on the devotional classic, Thomas a’ Kempis’ “Of the Imitation of Christ”, became a book called “Beyond Self” www.nph.com.
Then I stopped writing. For my nature is to share out of the love I have for God and others – out of the overflow of joy. I give from the abundance that has been given to me. You see, I had followed God’s miraculous guidance in a certain direction. As surprisingly as that opportunity appeared, it disappeared for good.
As I prayed to God in the brokenness, He was strangely silent. I went into a time where it seemed that I would just have to trust God’s goodness and keep moving forward. For I was used to a passionate, loving, and abundant relationship with Him. The old saints call experiences like this the “dark night of the soul.” God withdraws Himself from our usual ways of relating to Him, usually in order to help us grow. But it is a strange feeling getting small drops of water when you’re used to the faucet always being on full.
My whole identity is wrapped up with Jesus, so you can imagine that this affected every aspect of me. I am a romantic, I love life, I am free, I cherish people, I am real. I felt as though I lost that – that I’d changed fundamentally as a person and I would never be the same. My heart was missing…I wondered if I’d ever get it back and if I did, would I recognize it?
Slowly at first, God started showing up. Then, all of a sudden, in the midst of October as I was working on my thesis on reconciliation– He poured Himself out again and my heart has started to come back in familiar – and unexpected ways.
So I am writing again. It is in my nature to share with others out of what God does in me. I can’t help it. When I feel this much joy I get so excited I almost don’t know what to do with it.
Actually, what I am doing is diving in. It is kind of my thing, really – All in. 100%. Let’s do this.
And, of course, in the way that my mind works…the image that comes to me is
Since I dealt with the topic of shame and the false self/true self last week – I feel secure in being honest here. Keep reading, this metaphor has a Christian point to it!!! haha
I’ve never met a body of water that I didn’t want to jump, dive, swim, raft, sail, canoe, etc. I have a love affair with water – for being near the mighty ocean, a desert stream, or a mountain lake somehow never fails to bring the grace of God to my mind. Naturally, I want to be as close to the water as I possibly can be, usually in it. And I don’t always have a bathing suit.
This desire actually comes from the time in my life where I discovered deep brotherhood discipleship. I was a part of a small group of young men my senior year of high school. We called ourselves the C.R.E.W. which stood for Christians Refusing Everything Worldly. Ummmm….we didn’t actually refuse everything worldly…but we did refuse the world’s understanding of life. We accepted God’s call to abundance and we creatively and passionately found ways to celebrate that.
We lived free.
We laughed often.
We loved strong.
No disrespect to John Eldredge, whom I respect and enjoy reading, but we were Wild at Heart long before it was popular to be so. Even then, we saw this as not really our own invention – but the nature of true discipleship. The life of faith is an adventure and risk, by necessity. How can you really have faith (trust) if you’ve never stepped out on it and let God be God?
Of course, one of the ways we conceived of taking risks was skinny-dipping. For we all shared that sense of adventure. We were always having fun together. We were always trying to one-up ourselves. We were always doing anything that would pretty much make for a good memory. Skinny-dipping stories somehow make for good memories.
One particular time was in the middle of winter and we snuck into a state park and came across a semi-frozen river. One thing we’d never tried was “polar-bear” dipping. Now, as a disclaimer – I don’t advocate anyone follow this course of action entirely, because we were 17 and it was pretty dumb by safety standards. We stripped down got in, went under, and got out. Just to say we did it.
It was dangerous.
It was exhilarating.
We were literally exposed to every element.
We felt so alive.
Here’s a pic of most of the guys. From our 2006 friendship reunion in glorious Buena Vista, CO. Rest in Peace, Tim D. (front/center):
Not only do I think that skinny-dipping is a great metaphor for the life of discipleship in general, I think it is a really good metaphor for the kind of week that I’ve had with God this past week – and just a good way to describe what’s happening in my heart.
The Lord brought back to mind the song “DIVE” by Steven Curtis Chapman that captures my heart’s disposition right now perfectly. See if this resonates with your heart:
(V.1) The long awaited rains
Have fallen hard upon the thirst ground
And carved their way to where
The wild and rushing river can be found
And like the rains
I have been carried here to where the river flows, yeah
My heart is racing and my knees are weak
As I walk to the edge
I know there is no turning back
Once my feet have left the ledge
And in the rush I hear a voice
That’s telling me it’s time
to take the leap of faith
So here I go
(C) I’m diving in, I’m going deep in over
my head, I want to be
Caught in the rush, lost in the flow,
in over my head, I want to go
The river’s deep, the river’s wide,
the river’s water is alive
So sink or swim, I’m diving in
(V.2) There is a supernatural power
In this might river’s flow
It can bring the dead to life
And it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing
Worth living and worth dying for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood
So if you’ll take my hand
We’ll close our eyes and count to three
And take the leap of faith
Come on let’s go…
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the way that I must live in order to be truly alive. I’m most comfortable in it.
I am actually very uncomfortable in hiding, playing it safe, and tacitly accepting that this life’s meaning is the natural course of having a house, 2.5 children, and an SUV. As Thoreau said, “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
I wholeheartedly reject that living with the faith of Abraham or Jacob, Isaiah or Ezekiel, Peter or Paul, is somehow for the super-Christians. God may not call you to take the risk of faith to “get up and go to the land that I will show you” but if you pay attention – God is asking you to step out in faith ALL of the time.
Stepping out on faith is not so much about the grandiose nature of the task. A lot of the life of faith, as in love, is in the little things like taking the time to give yourself to watching Power Rangers with your 3 year old nephew for the 2,759th time, even though you feel the responsibility of your thesis due date!
It is about diving in and being ok with being exposed, naked, vulnerable. For as the song notes – there is a sink or swim nature to it. Yep. Diving in is dangerous. The water is cold. People can get hurt.
When you ask for forgiveness, you may or may not be forgiven. Ask anyway.
When you lay yourself out honestly, you may or may not be received. Do it anyway.
When you give, give generously. You could receive nothing in return. Give anyway.
Sink or swim – DIVE IN. We must expose ourselves to failure in order to receive the joy of life. Yes, it is scary, but you may never know the strength of the grace of God in its fullness unless you jump off that cliff. Faith is not about not being afraid. Faith is about trusting God to help you overcome the fear.
Remember that God is not asking you to do anything that He wasn’t, or isn’t willing to do first Himself. It’s Christmas time – the time when we celebrate and remember when the God of the Universe skinny-dipped into our human world in the most exposed, vulnerable way possible – as a naked little baby, born in a barn, with teenage parents.
God went first. God always goes first. Let’s go in after Him. I’m sure as you’re reading this you KNOW the situations in your life where God is calling you to skinny-dip. You know the desires of your heart. You know the passion you have for the world. Even if it’s all deep down and buried for some reason, even brokenness, – the LORD is somehow calling you to DIVE IN.
I’m saying all this because God is challenging me to practice what I preach. This past week and a half or so (and even writing openly and honestly again and inviting new people into my inner life of discipleship) I’ve engaged in this spiritual skinny-dipping in some big and small ways.
I’ve stood on the edge of the water – exposed, even afraid at times – and said, “Well, Jesus has brought me here to the edge of the rushing river, so, here goes. Sink or swim, I’m diving in.”
That’s the only way I know how to truly live as a disciple, and I’m looking forward to what Jesus does with in all of this.