“Where can I go from Your Presence, where can I flee from You?” David rhetorically asks in his life changing Psalm 139. He is saying something essential about Reality here. All things, all our activities and every thing we encounter is a potential meeting place with God. This is true spirituality. To experience the whole of life as a place through which to encounter the Living God. This is not religion. For if we are, as David later says, in darkness, we can meet God there also. There is no place we can go which is not a potential tabernacle. When we do not divide life up into sacred and not sacred, when we see the entire thing–work, play, talk, driving, meeting others–whatever-as all meeting places with God, we become Kingdom agents.
We often divide our days into religious activities and secular or other types of activities. Filling out bills would not be considered a holy activity. But David is saying, it is. Like Daniel, even when managing lands and resources, governing, or ruling–there is no gap in communion. Both of these men’s spiritualities included the whole of life. When David made art–music and poetry–He met God. When building buildings, or leading the people in religious processions–he met God. When he was sick and alone, he met God. Even when he sinned, he met God. And i believe because he was willing to meet God even after his sin, that Solomon came out of it! You have to ask why God blessed an illegitimate child so much as to include their wisdom in scriptures. Clearly David sinned, yet he also exposed his sin, even in scripture, to God–so once again his mistake became a meeting place with God.
A spiritual person is always with God, even when with others. This was one of the ways of Jesus.
There is no situation God cannot enter, if we choose to turn towards Him and encounter Him. For lo, He truly is with us always. Once we get David’s secret here–that our communion with God must become uninterrupted, so that we begin to see everything in life as a medium through which to love and know God more–to actually encounter His Presence, then we become living portals for others.
Our spiritual practice is to meet God in all we do–whether in a season of sickness, wellness, success or struggle–we meet God there, and by doing so, we usher in His Holy Kingdom which is without end. That is the secret to living well. That is what David teaches us here. It truly is about how to live.
Now, each of us has a particular passions and desires (a contoured calling); so we move from who we are, and tend to meet Him in those areas where our true desires lead us, bringing His Kingdom into this particular areas meant to be our way (Ephesians 2:10)–for me, the arts and culture and authentic identity. But the spiritual practice is the same regardless of our fields of interest and influence–all we do is a potential meeting place with God, a medium through which to get to know and love Him–ie to follow Jesus commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart! This is how to live an undivided life. For He is One, and he is making our lives one integrated spiritual conversation. And in this sense, Paul’s spiritual contentment is lived out. For he spoke of being content in all situations because of this knowing that “not I but Christ” state of being. He is talking about constant communion regardless of circumstances–and that is the goal of the Christian life. To be in Him without interruption. To constantly abide. This is the abundant life–to live in uninterrupted communion with Christ as He forms Himself ever more fully within us. He forms Himself as we choose this ongoing communion state of being. And why wouldn’t he—for where can i flee from Your Presence, or go from where You are God.
If I am writing an article, You are there. If I am changing the trash bags, You are also there. If i am washing dishes–as brother Lawrence taught us–God is surely there. So you see we are free to live out lives without worrying if we are doing the wrong things as well. There need be no perfectionism–esp religious perfectionism–once we know that we can meet God everywhere at all times through any activity.
So when i make art, He is there. When i talk with my wife, He is there. When i go to the pub for an ale, He is definitely there! So we are free. Free to meet Him in all we do in life–no matter what. That’s good news. Thanks David. Thanks Holy Spirit!
Of course, we can learn to order our outer activities in Wisdom. But here, my point is, to meet God in whatever activities we choose to do–encounter His Presence in all you do. Then it will become a place of transformation and encounter, first for you, then for those around you. Try it. You will be manifesting God wherever and whatever you do.
Each daily container is a place of meeting. So getting the coffee is one. Picking kids up is one…staying at home, going to Prague; making pancakes etc—keep choosing to meet Him in all you do. If you are a parent, then parenting will be one place you are meeting Him. If single, then singleness will be. If an artist, the creative process will be.
One way to get at your own authentic spirituality is to ask: If there were no people in the universe but you, what would your relationship with God look like, consist of? It is essential at a certain stage of spiritual growth to find your own spirituality outside of other’s. For a season we explore and borrow or try on other’s spiritualities, much as a writer imitates another writer until they find their own voice. But once we find our own voice spiritually, we are less dependent on how other’s meet God. We become actors not reactors; in short, we individuate from our parents, just as in the natural cycle of life. We start to form our own style of home, and start covering others. This is much of Paul’s analogy in Galatians 4. The idea which is essential is we should be developing our own relationship with The Father, just as Jesus did. Jesus knew His places of personal meeting with the father. He went to the garden. He slept on the ship–just with the Father. He started all His movements or actions from that place alone with The Father. So should we. Our true spirituality is in this personal relationship to Our Creator.
God and I talk a lot. I mean I could just sit and listen to Him talk forever, and at times, He puts up with me talking endlessly as well. We also create together a lot. These two are large aspects of our relationship–talking and making art. This ends up translating to others as a covering for them to talk authentically and create. I carry a covering to show up as yourself in conversation and to create true expression from your inner life or who you really are with Him. I remember a vision i had when i was starting to move in the prophetic, where God basically showed me that I was going to talk all day anyways to Him, might as well go tell others things He was saying, and use some of that talk power. I was sitting on His lap and we were chatting. Then He told me to run down the mountain and go tell someone something i heard Him say. That was the start of delivering words to people for me. It came out of who i really am with Him above.
One of the things I carry is an invitation and permission to meet God in the inner life of the imagination. We need to be developing our inner lives through bible study, prayer, and many other ways; we are meant to be daily strengthening and growing our spirits. This includes our sanctified imaginations. Prayer is a foundational practice in that we are talking with God privately, authentically. One of my wife and I’s gifts are to model and offer others an opportunity to have an authentic spirituality with God through Christ. In this sense, we carry an integrative gift–helping people come to discover and express their true identities in Christ. We often begin with the imagination, and help people meet God there. This can happen in prayer–as we taste and see, hear and perceive what God is conversing with us about. An active sanctified imagination makes prayer prophetic.
Art and life are one for us. And I think we give people room to integrate their art with their spirituality, by meeting God through the creative process. I think the overall goal is to have a developing authentic spirituality which by nature will be creative.
My wife and I are often brought creative people who are already awake spiritually, but who maybe have not yet brought their creativity and spirituality under the same roof. This integration we carry, comes from our own journeys in Christ in which He brought them together in Him within us. Sometimes, we are brought recovering or creatively unvalidated Christians, other times artists who are open spiritually. Our friends from the art world, often lack an interpretive theological context for their art; those from the church world often have invalidated imaginations or have never met God in their own creative processes. Often Christians are afraid to perceive with God, and create with Him. This is true for many reasons historically. We try to help roll some of the stones away and allow His Holy Spirit, who is so creative to enter into the imagination, so there is freedom to authentically express one’s true self and native spirituality with God.
I am always interested in how a person meets God authentically. Even when i read scriptures, i am often asking, what is this writer’s native spirituality. If they were alone in the universe, what would their conversation with God be like? How would they meet Him-what tones and cadences would they speak in?
As an extroverted person, it took me many years to value developing my inner life. I think for me it was when i asked for a love of scriptures, that some of my inner life outside of helping other people, started to develop. I came to meet God in scriptures, and this started to feed my spirit. Before that, i think God primarily conversed with me through art. I was surprised by a love of the bible, because in some ways, growing up in ministry, i was overexposed to the bible. 5000 sermons, i tallied once. That’s a lot of word; but I needed to meet The Word on my own first, and then eventually He started meeting me in the word again. And this has sustained my spirit for many years.
If i were an introvert, i imagine i would have different challenges, and perhaps God would want me to primarily meet Him through helping others. For me helping others was what I was raised in. I was always serving. But serving others can be for the wrong reasons. In my case at times, it was for self approval or validation, rather than genuinely serving others from my heart. I had to fast from people for several seasons in order to develop my inner life. I recall when God asked me to fast from people, and said–who are you outside of others. This was a very valued stage of my own growth, as was when we sat down and He told me the story of my life, from His Perspective. My true testimony. It was a bit humbling and harrowing to hear His version of my story. But it changed my life.
God places us in situations which help our inner life grow. They are often the opposite of what we think we would need to develop. That’s one of His Ways. As an extroverted service oriented person, i needed to be drawn inwards and develop my inner relationship with The Father. I needed to read, walk and talk with Him constantly, without helping anyone. It was strange at first to try to fast from helping others, as much of the christian culture i grew up in emphasized serving and saving others above the development of our own inner lives with God. I’ve come to believe that we serve more profoundly the more our inner lives are made rich. The garden turns out to be a smart investment–even in helping others. I can only serve others in the areas, and to the degree that I am “in Christ”; and i only have the amount of His Authority in the areas where He is formed. So if I really want to help others, i will take the time to allow Him to form Himself within me.
For me, there was a season when the inner life was all God was working on. Now there is also this outer serving others aspect, but i still deeply value this inner space that just God and I know. It is from there, that all else flows. Many of us get to busy to develop our inner lives, or so busy helping others that we neglect our inner gardens. This is deadly in the end, and leads to burn out, and a form of performance orientation towards God and life. We feel obligated to help others in an attempt to perform well for God. As if..
I do think that there comes a point in your growth where your life is less divided–where both the inner and outer lives are places of meeting and getting to know The Father. Once, there, there is an endless deepening of communing with Him internally and through ministering Him externally to others. Paul is an example of this-where helping others or spiritually parenting became a place of getting to know and love God. That is the place i enjoy now. But I often find myself returning to my inner place with Him, and still believe it is the Holy of Holies so to speak. From that place of rest and peace, all the activities in the outer life flow.