This morning, I slept in as long as I wanted, and then rolled out of bed at my Grammy's house down by the lake. I put on a sweater, grabbed my Bible and journal, and curled up in a patio chair where I could just be with Jesus for a while.
Be with Jesus.
Many of you know that the word "with" has become one of the dearest words to me. A few years ago I wrote an in-depth explanation of the importance of this word, and it has only become more beautiful to me since then. In short, I've come to realize that being with God, with the Father, with Jesus, with the Spirit, is the most important thing - more important than doing things for God or getting things from God. The entire narrative of history, the entire story of the Bible, is of God creating people to be with Him, them rejecting Him, and Him pursuing them to bring them back to be with Him. The very name of the long-awaited Messiah is Immanuel - with-us God. Jesus' final prayer before his arrest was speaking of us: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am." (John 17:24)
But what does that mean? How can we actually be with God? It's one thing to mentally assent to the truth that God is with us. But if you're anything like me, that mental assent doesn't make it very real. There's no way I feel like I'm with God like I'm with another human. At least, it didn't feel that way until recently. Through this teaching from Bridgetown Church, and through the book Seeing is Believing by Greg Boyd, I have learned an absolutely transformative and beautiful way to be with Jesus, for real. I'd honestly recommend the podcast or the book way more than this blog post. These teachers call it "imaginative prayer," but put simply it just means allowing the Holy Spirit to use our mind's ability to create images in the same way we recall memories or daydream up possible events. In the same way, with a foundation in the knowledge of Scripture, I can close my eyes and imagine that Jesus is beside me wherever I am. It feels like I'm making it up, but I know that it is actually true, that Jesus actually is beside me, in me, all around me. I can sit with him and just enjoy the silence together, like I do with a close friend. Or I can ask Him questions. Or I can pour out the emotions of my day and watch his face as I speak.
Most important is to stop and just rest with Jesus. A huge block for many Christians is the constant need to try harder, to do more for God, to prove that we're good enough or humble enough or active enough or diligent enough. There is more and more talk in Christian circles about "enjoying God," but it seems that few people really do because we're caught up in doing more and trying harder. The teachers I've learned from lately cannot emphasize enough the importance of resting in Christ. Doing nothing, just sitting in his presence, picturing his pleasure in being with you. Maybe neither of you say anything. This is essential for our souls because it reinforces the truth that God wants to be with us, enjoys us, desires us, and loves us enough to want to simply rest with us. And even if we don't fully believe it, just picturing it can begin to help.
There is so much more I want to say and share about how transformative this practice has become for me in just the past few weeks. It is so different to actually feel like I have memories with Jesus, I've re-experienced memories with Him, I've seen His smile as I ask Him questions, I've seen His broken heart in His eyes as I tell Him where my life hurts. Some days more than others, I still feel like Wait, am I just making this up? But I go back to Scripture. I go back to the things I know He has said, and I imagine Him saying them to me. If you want to know who He says you are, here is a small list (scroll down to "Believers are:"). Just pick a few that seem hard to grasp or believe and imagine Jesus speaking them to you. It might take a long time to really believe it, but that's okay. It is true, and eventually you will believe Him when He says it!
But I cannot say all I want to here tonight. More than anything, I urge you to listen to the podcast teaching or read the book that I just finished. I really believe there is nothing more important than being with God, and I'm learning that it is not just important, it is wonderful. He is wonderful.