The Gift of the Holy Now

DSCN4667Recently my wife and I celebrated our twenty-ninth wedding anniversary in an unusual way. We went to a spiritual retreat center in the coastal region near Mendocino called “the Lord’s Land.” It was originally a commune of “hippies” that all came to faith in Christ in the early 1970’s and then over time it has now come to be managed by YWAM (Youth with a Mission). It is on twenty-nine acres of pine forest and redwood trees and features a number of old cabins and cottages creatively assembled by the hippies and decorated with Bible verses.

 

It was a unique experience in a number of ways. First of all, we were “off the grid;” that is to say, we had no cell phone service or internet access so we were in effect cut off from the outside world. Our tiny cabin, called “the little house in the garden” used a wood stove for heating and consisted of a small bedroom and a kitchenette area that had a sink with only cold water, a mini-fridge, a microwave oven, a coffee maker, and an ancient single-burner hotplate with a cloth-covered power-cord. The cottage was in a flower garden that was mostly dormant in the cold, crisp November air but still looked beautiful and was full of plenty of animal life such as hummingbirds and buzzing insects. Outside the largest window in the bedroom area, which faced a pine forest beyond the garden, we were witness to a daily parade of animals which included several deer, some housecats, a few wild turkeys, and a flock of quail. Nearby the tree branches danced in the blustery winds. It was truly like something out of a fairy tale.

 

While I was there, I approached the situation like I usually do at any spiritual retreat that I attend; I have my Bible and a notebook and I strive to hear from God. The big difference this time was that there was no speaker or organized time of teaching to glean truths from. My whole being strained to hear any word from God, any kind of direct teaching, but instead He was totally silent during the weekend.

 

Instead, I had an altogether totally different kind of experience with the Lord. I have decided to call it the gift of the “holy now.” What happened was that as I was struggling to get any kind of message or communication from God, I suddenly realized that the “message” was not a word from God, but it was the immediate presence of God Himself; He was with me in that little cabin then and there.

It was the simple but powerful gift of this present moment with God, a time unhindered by the past or future; just an elemental quiet blessing of being, existing, and living in the silent presence of God. It was like an eagle floating on a current of wind and not having to flap his wings to fly. It was the fulfillment of that short Bible verse, Psalm 46:10, which says “Be still and know I am God.”

 

I have always struggled with that verse; it has always puzzled me, but now I am beginning to get a glimpse of what it means…a ceasing to struggle, worry, or stress; and a relinquishing of control of my life and entrusting it fully to God, and the truth that He is lovingly sovereign. It was like a mental version of the “trust game” where you close your eyes and fall backward, trusting your friends to catch you. That is even an incomplete picture. It was more like floating along atop the ocean of God’s love, allowing it to carry you where He wills. It was being satisfied with the complete and utter simplicity of just being alive and being with God.

They say that you can’t really know that Jesus is all that you need until Jesus is all that you have; and it was something like that but not from a negative situation in any way. It wasn’t that everything was taken from me, though I was definitely in a simplistic setting; it was more like just being with God here and now, immediately and without distraction, and having that be sufficient for me.

 

Back in the fall of 2014, I believe that the Lord told me “Rest in My love” and I have struggled ever since to understand and achieve that kind of true rest. I am a person who is easily stressed-out and who carries many burdens so I have been struggling to learn how to relax and have a real Sabbath in my week. I believe that the experience I had recently is the beginning of a new way of living that will finally help me to realize a deeper level of true peace and contentment in Christ.

 

Not wanting to base my theology on just a subjective experience, I decided to search the Bible for glimpses of the “holy now.” The first glimpse of it occurred in the book of Job, where God doesn’t directly answer the question of why He allowed Job to suffer so severely; He simply appears and declares Who He is, His divine and powerful nature.

 

In the New Testament, I remembered that in the book of Acts, there is a time when Paul and Silas are in prison, after having just been beaten for their faith, and they are actually singing praises to God (Acts 16:23-25). God brings about an amazing miracle following that event.

I also remembered the Bible verses that Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

 

It has been a little while since I wrote the above and I have found it a challenge to get back to that state of the “holy now.” I have heard it termed “mindfulness” but the huge difference is that it is not just an awareness of myself and my experience in the present moment, but it is a time of focusing primarily on the Presence of God. It is becoming an experience that I want to come back to from time to time as a kind of refreshing and renewing of my spirit; but it seems to only be possible when it is mainly quiet and still around me; and I know that it is only a piece of the fuller experience of a personal relationship with the God of the universe.

 

It is my hope that the Lord would help us to grow in the understanding of this spiritual tool because I think it will relieve a lot of our stress and anxiety and allow us to live more fully in the strength He provides daily.

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