Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lectio Divina--Day Two


[Here is a follow-up to an earlier post on Lectio Divina.]

A few months ago I encountered an interesting concept in Larry Crabb’s The Pressure’s Off.  In the book, Crabb describes what he calls “the Papa prayer,” which is a series of prompts to use for reflection and (of course) prayer.

I’m not really comfortable with turning a sacred practice into a step-by-step process.  But Crabb's suggestions continue to linger in my mind, and I’ve found it meaningful to revisit them from time to time.  And as I’ve spent time in Matthew 14, one part of the Papa prayer seems particularly relevant.  So I thought I’d pass it along:

“Attend to where you notice God’s presence or absence in your day.”

Lately, it seems like I’ve heard lots of people talk about instances where theyve perceived Gods presence.  They often refer to such experiences as “God moments   

What about you?  Do you know someone who has talked about a “God moment” in his or her life?  Have you perhaps used it to describe an occasion in your life?

Crabbs suggestion has caused me to think more about what determines a “God moment for me.  And I think my definition involves times when life seems to be “working out.”  A prayer is answered.  A realization occurs.  An illness is healed.  A child (finally) begins to fall into step. 

The problem with this definition of a “God moment,” though, is this:  how, then, do I view the (many) instances when things arent “working out?”  What about when a prayer seems to go unanswered.  When I continue to feel confused.  When pain or illness lingers.  Whendespite my most sincere effortsa child isnt responding the way Id like.

What Crabbs question is helping me see is a long-nurtured tendency to see such occasions as evidence of God’s absence.  And I have a really (really!) hard time believing (much less perceiving) that God can be—and often is—right there in the midst of a challenging, painful, devastating circumstance.  Unless, that is, He makes it all better.

And this is where Matthew 14 comes into the discussion.  

If I’d been one of the disciples in that boat, there’s a pretty good chance I’d have felt like God was “absent” from my circumstances.  Its the middle of the night—sometime between 3 and 6 a.m.  The waters are rough.  My companions and I have been rowing awhile—maybe hours—laboring our sleep-deprived muscles against relentless waves.  We’ve been in storms before, we know the danger, and we are anxious.  We’ve also just seen Jesus work a massive miracle only a few hours ago.  We know what He can do, and we are probably hoping (maybe even praying) He will meet our need like He responded to all those hungry people.

If I’d have been one of the disciples, I would have wanted a “God moment.”  Maybe a supernatural ending to a frightening storm.  Or super-human strength to move us quickly and powerfully to the more predictable shore, where I’d be safe.  Or at least Christ showing up to row with me, or to offer encouragement.

And when Christ did make his presence known, I would have been right there with the others:  I would have mistaken Him for a ghost—an eery, supernatural being even more terrifying than the storm itself.

Yet, like the disciples, I would’ve been smack dab in the middle of a “God moment.”  And I wouldn’t have even realized it.

The storm, the fatigue, the doubts, the darkness . . . all of this would’ve caused me—like the disciples—to be afraid.  To cry out in terror.  To think I was seeing a ghost.

To completely miss Christ’s presence.  

Which is why His words are so powerful:  Take courage.  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.

As I’ve reflected on this passage, these questions have emerged: 

Do I label the circumstances when life “works” as moments when God is present?

Do I have the tendency to see times of fear, confusion, or weakness as instances from which God is somehow absent?

I’ve also been challenged to consider this: 

The experiences when I’m most exhausted, most overwhelmed, most confused—those are occasions when I most often doubt God’s presence. 

Then anxiety takes over:  I can’t see Him.  I’m unable to muster the strength to muscle through. I worry that evil will overpower good, or that maybe my ultimate fear—His abandoning me—is finally happening.

In those moments, I can lose the ability to trust that He is coming.  Or I mistake Him for someone or something else.  Something unwanted, frightening, or even threatening. 

And all this happens even though He is right there.

The rain pelts.  The lightning flashes.  My muscles strain. The waves crash. The boat rocks. 

And my eyes fail.

Yet there He stands, in the midst of it all.  And He says this: 

Take courage. 
It is I. 
Don’t be afraid.

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