“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
I took time off for a “Quarterly Get-Away with God” but instead of hitting the trail somewhere I stayed home and purposed to finish my Poustinia.
Cutting to the chase – I met my self-imposed goal of completing the exterior. It is now, by the most basic definition of the word, a “building”. It’s been a 2+ year process of digging a root cellar beneath it, collecting abandoned and scrounged materials and finding TIME to work on it.
I justify making these last two days a spiritual retreat for a couple of reasons.
- There is a long standing tradition in Christian Monasticism of building one’s own “Cell” as a spiritual practice (really ALL types of work should be a spiritual practice, but this one carries a little more weight than most). This is a rare opportunity to live at the intersection of a discrete, physical process and a deep non-physical (spiritual) experience. We don’t have many of these intersections in Evangelicalism.
- I willed it to be so. Simply put, my intent was to give my attention to God through giving my attention to the work. By the way – this is NOT easy! I used three methodologies to facilitate this: I stayed extra committed to the Daily Offices, maintaining a rhythm of prayer and work, I paused now and again to continue my slow, torturous wandering through “No Man is an Island” by Thomas Merton and I periodically listened to podcasts on relevant spiritual topics as I worked.
The question I carried with me into this retreat was, “Am I connecting with God’s power? Are our churches, our groups and our communities? How DO we connect with it? As I tossed my line into the turbulent and sometimes polluted waters of Christian podcasts, I came up with a few dogfish but also landed a beauty: A.W. Tozer giving a series of sermons on the Holy Spirit (the SOURCE of God’s power in our lives). There was far too much great material to even adequately summarize here – but the thing which captured my heart’s attention were two principles regarding the “how to’s” of living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
First was the idea of showing up with an empty vessel. Purging one’s life of claptrap, sin and selfishness so as to create space for the Spirit’s arrival.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
“Offer” is the key word Tozer seizes upon. In the KJV I believe it’s “present yourself”. In other words, you must show up to the transaction having done your part: repentance, forgiveness, cleansed in the Gospel truth. This simple, common sense and timeless teaching has re-captured my attention (perhaps NOT ironically because it was delivered with POWER!)
But the other principle was simply that of desire. One must desire to have the Holy Spirit in control. Tozer put it in stark, simple terms to illustrate. He spoke of how resistant the normal person would be to the concept of being “possessed” by any spirit. He then reasons that there would be a sort of instinctive resistance which must be faced when it comes to the Holy Spirit .
I realized that, in a very real way, I don’t desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Certainly not consistently. If God does not coerce his way into my life then, I am mostly living without the presence of the Spirit in operation, and therefore living without power…because I don’t WANT it.
This borders on self-help, self-will, positive thought, self-esteem, fuzzy thinking. But at the same time, the conclusion is scriptural and it makes common sense. We live without the power of the Holy Spirit because we do not want it. There are of course other conditions, but if this hurdle cannot be cleared the others will never be reached.
Damn. I hate to type these words..but confession requires it:
I don’t want the Holy Spirit very much.
God have mercy on me.
I do desire; help me overcome my lack of desire!