Sometimes it feels like God is far away from me. Especially when I’m in pain. When i’m hurting it’s easy to use language that depicts God as aloof or removed from me. Deep down I know he doesn’t withdraw from me because I’m sad or hurting or depressed. Theoretically I know the right answer:
That he will never leave me or forsake me.
That he is near to the broken hearted.
That no distance can separate me from the love of the Father.
So when I feel this distance, knowing that it’s not true, I start to beat myself up and rebuke the notion that my feelings don’t line up with the truth. This isn’t a horrible exercise to do: commanding our souls that feelings don’t equal truth. But what do you do when your feelings, more often than not, seem to tip the scales and speak louder than what you believe to be true?
The temptation is to say our feelings don’t matter. Or to go a step further even, and say that our feelings are wrong or evil. Stem it back to faulty manufacturing.
Sometimes God feels so incredibly close. Like when I sit 8,000 feet atop the tiny strip of land that connects the two majestic mountains on the island I grew up on. With oceans on either side and as the deep mist I’m engulfed in clears for a brief moment something entirely magical occurs. In that perfect moment the sun sets over one mountain range and slowly disappears into the deep blue of the Pacific. The colours explode with unbelievable exuberance and produces a euphoric joy that can only be accurately described in spiritual terms. This nearness is something that feels embedded deep within my very being. An intimate connection to God on so many different levels.
I wonder if their is better language than near and far in relation to our connection with Jesus?
I’ve been seeing my connection with him less in the terms of whether he feels close or far. I truly believe he desires to not just be near me, but to inhabit and dwell within me. The space he desires to live in is in my heart and he has never desired to withdraw or move far away from me. Any nearness or distance in my journey so far is only a reflection of whether Jesus is taking up residence in his preferred accommodations. He stands at the door and knocks. He doesn’t barge in and he doesn’t demand hospitality.
I live my life so frequently knowing this, but my honest evaluation is sometimes I basically hear the knock and yell out to him that now isn’t a good time. The mess behind the doors is too great, sometimes even blaming Jesus himself for the mess. Sometimes it’s not an embarrassment that keeps me from opening the door but just a lack of energy. Feeling too worn out to welcome him and be the host I know he deserves, to be fully present and willing to meet with him in a meaningful and deep way. What if he asks questions about my pain? What if he pokes around and reminds me that this dwelling was made to be a lot tidier than what I’ve let it become.
What if warm or cold is better language than near or far?
What if distance is merely coldness being disguised as something it’s not? Something that is completely out of our hands. What if any perceived distance is actually not distance at all, but merely a reflection of the states of our own hearts? Jesus has endowed us with this great freedom of choice. To steward our own hearts and allow them to become cold and hard. What a great gift that no matter how stony, stubborn, calloused and cold our hearts get; that Jesus continues to stand outside the door and knock.
What if Jesus isn’t ever far at all, but just standing outside in the cold, waiting for the invitation to come in? To come in and simply be near again. He doesn’t stand outside because he is angry or disappointed. He didn’t pack his bags and decide to live on the porch just to prove a point. He knows that this cohabitation only works when there is warmth of heart.
Sure, we’ll have to tidy up and make adjustments, some small and some painfully big. When we finally invite him in we immediately start trying to explain or justify why things are so messy inside. Frantic suggestions on what can be done to fix it all up get hurled his way. He knows exactly what needs addressing, but to him first things first. All that coldness has got to be dealt with. So he asks us if we have any more logs for the fireplace. As we throw even the first one on, he begins to rekindle the faintly glowing embers of our hearts and patiently blows on them till they flicker with real warmth once again.