A thoughtful guest post by author, blogger and photographer, Donita Bundy.
After spending time last week with God in isolation – curled into the foetal position from debilitating chronic pain – the intimacy evaporated as soon as I stepped back into the slipstream of life.
Last week’s connection has been replaced with busyness and clutter. I still read my Bible and pray, but … helping my children learn from home, trying to catch up on word count targets, a new photography project, and coming to terms with the different requirements for teaching my own school class online, has swept me back into the fast lane.
While I don’t miss the pain, I miss the closeness. I had allowed the miracle of intimacy that I found in the isolation to fade with the clutter of life in the everyday.
I am currently reading through Ezra/Nehemiah and was slapped in the face by chapters 9 and 10.
The whole two chapters.
It was a big hit.
I was challenged with the truth. It was time to choose.
It takes two
I have summarised it below, but you can read it all here.
The Israelites were back in the Promised Land after their timeout. Now it was time to give thanks and acknowledge their part in the rocky relationship to date
Step 1 – Yahweh:
- Picked them up out of oblivion and made a lasting contract with Abram
- Executed a compassionate and miraculous rescue from Egypt
- Provided for all their needs: laws, bread, water, a home.
Step 2 – Israel:
- Refused to listen, were arrogant and stiff and forgot the miracles
- Rejected the chosen leader and preferred to return to slavery.
Step 3 – Yahweh:
- Forgave their crimes
- Was gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love
- Did not desert or abandon them; rather He continued to lead and provide for them
- Gave them kingdoms, nations, heirs, and victories in fortified, fertile lands.
Step 4 – Israel:
- Disobeyed and rebelled
- Turned against His law and killed His prophets.
Step 5 – Yahweh:
- Disciplined them
- Heard them
- Rescued them.
Step 6 – Israel:
- Disobeyed and rebelled.
Repeat Steps 5 and 6 … over and over again.
Step 7 – Yahweh
- Sent them to timeout
- Brought them back and re-established them
- Remained faithful.
Step 8 – Israel:
- Worshipped God
- Promised, vowed, swore they would never ever … ever … we really mean it this time … do it again.
- Disobeyed and rebelled against God.
When I read these chapters, I was struck with the similarities between Israel’s actions and my own journey.
The bit about abandoning that intimate relationship, then calling out in sheer desperation due to the consequences of my choices, then God coming to the rescue.
And especially the bit about me declaring my love and allegiance again … till I faded into the everyday.
I could relate to those heartfelt promises:
“I’ll never ever … ever … I really mean it this time … leave Your side again.”
Sadly, from past experience, I knew that just like the intensity of the suffering, this too – the passion of my promise – would pass.
I would set up practices to ensure that “this time” I would not forget. I would not fade. This time I would remain in genuine relationship with God.
Then, like a mirage in the wilderness of the chaos, it would dissolve … again.
Still committed to making Christ my all, still wanting to be teachable and reachable, I turned to something more tangible than a mirage. Along with my Bible, I picked up A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
How good is God!
Foster highlights that any success we have in the pursuit of God that comes from us – our strength, our drive, our will – is … “will worship”. And is destined to fail.
Our sin – that which separates us from God – is a human condition. We can’t overcome this by our own will.
I know we know this.
But how many of us try to overcome it in our own strength anyway?
My hand is raised right now.
What’s the answer?
In Romans 5:17 Paul encourages us to receive the free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ. Even though we cannot overcome sin and separation by ourselves, Foster writes there is something we can do.
We can choose to:
- Take timeout to sit before God.
- Drop our wall and open ourselves to the inspection and transformation of the Spirit.
- Remove ourselves from the slipstream and sit in the side pools allowing the Word to seep in.
- Come out from under the cloud of failure and sit in the sunshine of the Father’s love.
We may be weak of will, but we have choices. And now, today, it is a time to choose.
- What about you? What have you found that works in maintaining vibrant relationship with God in the everyday?
- Are there any spiritual disciplines in particular that sit well with you in this time?
Donita Bundy is a writer and writing teacher who was appointed the inaugural Somerset Writer in Residence in 2019. Her debut urban fantasy Dangerous Salvation was published in 2020, the first in a YA series of seven.