Enjoying God

(This is a part of my "loaves and fishes" offerings - click here to see the original post.)

"The enjoyment of God should be the supreme end of spiritual technique..."                J.S. Mackenzie
"The chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
Westminster Shorter Catechism

In the realm of spiritual formation - which is somewhat of a fad term these days (i.e. you'll get about as many definitions as there are people trying to define it AND "programs" that will help you be "formed" with three easy steps for $79.95)  - there are many spiritual "disciplines" which are offered to help a person turn to God, to "contemplate God," in order to help one be more open to being conformed to His image. We hear from the pulpit that we are to be "like Christ" in the midst of our ordinary daily living. We are encouraged to invite others to "come and see" Jesus - but what are they seeing? How does true spiritual transformation happen? And is it happening in your life as you heed the "action steps" of a weekly admonition?

Primarily, true transformation happens because the Lord, who is the spirit, brings freedom - as we behold Christ, what "veils" us from true life is taken away - and we are transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Cor 3: 15-18). One of my professors at Western Seminary, Dr. J. Carl Laney, said often, "We are transformed to the level of our beholding." Therefore, spiritual disciplines are supposed to help us "behold" Christ and open our hearts to His love so that we may be like Him (NOTE: 1 John 3:2 - could it be that as Christ appears to us, not only in the 2nd coming, but in our everyday lives, we will become more like Him?)

Most people, however, when confronted with the idea of spiritual "disciplines," imagine ascetic, arduous and painful practices to "slay" the lusts of the flesh etc. In other words, to stop sinning; To alter behavior - don't drink or chew or go with girls who do. The end result - often a church comprised of people who look like they've been sucking on lemons. (I'm borrowing phrases from my former pastor!) I'm not convinced that most Christians are actually practicing disciplines that help them actually to enjoy God, to enjoy the generosity He lavishes upon us, and as a result, to mirror a life that brings glory to Him.

Furthermore, in what ways do you and I and our church bodies sense God enjoying us? Brennan Manning often says that he believes God loves him because God is theologically bound to do so. "But, do I believe He likes me?" This is much harder to believe, but if embraced would radically transform whole congregations.

Do you believe He enjoys and delights in you - likes you? Why or why not?

This week, I encountered more people seemingly enjoying God/life (at least His creation) while walking in the woods then I did in church. I received more blessings and kindnesses from "strangers" I passed then from people sitting in the pews. Why are people happier walking in the woods then sitting in a worship service? Hmmm.

What spiritual "techniques" do you employ in your life?

  • "Quiet Time" -  a common term to describe a set aside time to study the Bible and discover timeless principles by which to order our lives. Why is it the "only" quiet time of our day? Why so compartmentalized? Regardless, if you have a "quiet time" - does it bear the fruit of enjoyment/joy in your day as you interact with others, yourself, your circumstances?

  • Prayer - In what ways do your prayers lend you enjoyment of God? Life? Living?

  • Attending small groups - Is there an honest enjoyment of being with God and others in your gathering - how does it impact the rest of your week?

There are many, many spiritual disciplines one can undertake to discover, recover or deepen their intimacy and enjoyment of God. A great resources is Adele Calhoun's book, the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. In it she clearly denotes that it is not the disciplines (doing all of them, doing them in order, doing them "rightly") that are the goal. But choosing the ones that help you open your heart to trust His love - and that bear the fruit of enjoying God.

How is God inviting you to intentional cooperate with opening your heart to His love and to enjoying Him?

Mackenzie continues:

The enjoyment of God should be the supreme end of spiritual technique; and it is in that enjoyment of God that we feel not only saved in the Evangelical sense, but safe: we are conscious of belonging to God, and hence are never alone; and, to the degree we have these tow, hostile feelings will disappear..."

As you enter the fall season, evaluate your spiritual techniques...which are leading you toward an enjoyment of God, others and self? Maybe you need to "shake up" your current routine by asking God how He'd like to spend time with you. Please let me know what you discover.

If you are interested in or desiring to have a spiritual life more characterized by enjoyment of God, vs. a rote, uninspiring duty, consider having your spiritual journey "companioned" by  a trained spiritual director. Spiritual Direction is an ancient practice in the church – where a "soul friend" journeys alongside and lends you courage to pay attention to all that your life – your true life – is voicing and longing to voice and contribute to a world in need. A Spiritual Director helps you engage with spiritual techniques that help you discover, recover or deepen your intimacy and enjoyment of the real God - not who you imagine, fear or want God to be. In Spiritual direction, the director does not direct or coach your life – but (s)he will help you overhear the nuances of your own soul in tandem with the True Director, the Holy Spirit. For more info or questions on how to find a Spiritual Director and/or ask what Spiritual Direction is all about, click here or on the links below.

  • creating unhurried space for the soul 

  • soul care retreats, resources and coaching

For more info about reFresh - go to www.mysoulrefresh.com