Having faith that it is possible to have an intimate relationship with God where he is touchable and tangible and where I am surrendered to and totally dependent on him. That is where I am centered in my faith walk today after about a week of experimenting with a thirty day spiritual experiment inspired by Rod Pruitt which you can find here
I’d like to share some random observations and feelings about this journey to help me get more clear on where I am at. If anyone reading this is helped by this, I am so happy.
When I first read the spiritual experiment encouraging me to talk to God in my own words about how I want to have God be the first place I go to fulfill my emotional needs, tears were streaming down my face because it hit me hard how I had used all my mind and all my heart to pursue other avenues to fulfill those emotional needs. All my life, I have found causes or people to pursue with a passion, and often times I would achieve my goal.
In fact, my brother has told me more than once that it always amazes him and my two siblings that as talented as I am , I have not really succeeded in any of my endeavors to the point that I am successful in terms of material abundance. For example, in my past life, I was a musician on my way to becoming very successful after producing a number of very well received cassettes for children and people of all ages. I left all that to go to Arkansas where I basically started over, becoming a waitress and then cleaning bed and breakfasts. I got fired from about five out of ten jobs I had, and quitting the others, until finally finding a lowly hotel to work at where the husband and wife managers were sane. I cleaned houses mainly for a living after that until several years ago when I focused on organizing and gardening.
I learned rather late in my life that I was really good at diving into various causes, like upholding the tree ordinance which lead to the tree sit in Fayetteville back in 2000, or helping save the Gaye Family Orchard from being taken by the Springdale School Board back using imminent domain, or supporting Ron Paul for President. I have this knack for organizing people who are already on fire for some cause. But every time I have thrown myself in to some cause or person or idea—I have withdrawn. I knew in my heart that this was not what I was supposed to put my heart, mind and soul into.
I realize now that one of the reasons both my marriages failed is because I was wanting Cliff and Robert to fulfill all my emotional needs, and when they weren’t able to fill what I now see as a God-shaped vacuum in my heart, this lead to endless, irresolvable conflicts that ended in two divorces.
I suppose I had a paradigm shift in looking at life. All at once, I could see a new way of looking at God, at life, at people—that really made sense. I felt relief and remorse.
I shared this experiment with my family, and they sure liked the idea of me not running after the next thing that would fill that God shaped vacuum, and my two kids and two former husbands are willing to consider trying out this experiment, although they are not totally committed. They are all supportive, that’s for sure.
Hey, it is nice that I can still spend time with my two former husbands. We are good friends, and own land together, with a vision that some day we will have a community there. Oh, yes…I used to think that community would fill that void in my heart.
Is it possible that because on some level I have always been surrendered to God that he has been able to guide my life so that I never succeeded so much in something that I would completely get lost in it—and my ego. That is something to ponder later.
I attended three different services on Saturday night and Sunday morning with the focus on the Resurrection of Jesus. I noticed that I was almost allergic to listening to words that were not supporting me in my spiritual experiment. That was the only thing I wanted to think about or hear about. So I left two of them before they were over—one I could only stand a few minutes of. One I stayed almost the whole time, but really wanted to bolt out of there. The reasons I stayed are long and complicated.
The one piece of advice Rod Pruitt gave me after I wrote him a note on Facebook was “relax in the journey”. I guess he knew I would really want to strive and try and strain. I am glad he told me that.
I found myself at times just really doubting that I would ever have touchable, tangible relationship with God. It used to be okay for me to simply imagine that God loves me so much. Yes, I would often see his hand in my life and feel his love and kindness. But then I would lose that awareness of his presence and get fearful. What I am going for now is an unbroken connection where the relationship is akin to a romance where I can’t stop thinking about my Beloved God.
One thing that has changed is that I am no longer so ambitious about trying to save the world and give up my family and myself in the process. I am noticing that I have more of a desire to nurture those people who are right in front of me. I want to get my own house in order. I want to find ways that Robert (most recent former husband) and I can cooperate more effectively. Even though we aren’t married, we have continued to share our lives in many ways. My relationship with him has improved since starting this experiment because I no longer need him to be perfect. And I no longer need him to fill all my emotional needs. I feel even more desirous of spending time with my kids and helping them to have this relationship with God, as well as mentoring and loving them as they step into adulthood.
Not needing others to fulfill my emotional needs and never let me down seems to be the most outstanding thing that has happened. I have heard this wisdom over and over again. Though I know I have heard the idea that God will never let me down and thus I should rely on him, God was never real enough for me to do that. I preferred to rely on people who I could see and touch and talk to rather than a far away, nebulous God.
I recall when I became an agnostic when I left the Methodist Church after being very active–even being the Methodist Youth Council chairperson. It was really easy to leave, because now I realize that I had never really believed. I was simply part of a club that was fun most of the time. When I was seventeen I asked one of the youth leaders the question “I’m sorry, I still haven’t understood this—why is it that we have to go through Jesus to get to God?”, I was in some way treated disrespectfully. I can’t exactly remember the response of the person questioned, but I know that it was not nurturing. Something like, “you haven’t gotten that YET?”. Soon after that I went to the pastor and told him I was withdrawing my membership.
Yearning to know God as real has been a part of my make up since I accepted the fact after seeing Sai Baba, an Indian Guru perform some what I considered miracles when I as nineteen. I realized I was being pretty stubborn to believe that just because I could not see or understand something did not mean it did not exist.
But there have been so many obstacles, mostly religious organizations and religious people. I like the name of the book I just happened upon called WHEN BAD CHRISTIANS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. I could certainly relate to that. So many people are turned off to Christ because of Christians, including myself.
I’ve always seen myself as a kind of idealist, who is willing to try out a bigger and better vision of what life could be. Rod presents a life that I have never really been willing to accept as possible for me, though. A life with an intimate relationship with God where no matter what happens, I feel and am safe with him. One of the most powerful books I have ever read was TORTURED FOR CHRIST by a man who’s name I forget. He was an agnostic or atheist before he gave his life to Christ. When he was put in prison because he would not denounce his faith, he was tortured on a daily basis in unspeakable ways. At night he would be dancing in ecstasy, feeling the presence of Jesus. If I remember correctly, the torture did not really touch him physically. The main thing I remember is not only did he survive, but he thrived. When he left prison, he started a powerful organization called The Voice of The Martyrs which helps Christians all over the world who are persecuted.
I weep as I write this. I am wondering why. I know when I read that book I wept uncontrollably. I have a hard time hearing or reading about torture, because I can empathize so powerfully with the victims. I feel sorry for the torturers as well. The tears come partly because I wish that during all these years my spiritual teachers and friends could have just encouraged me to develop a tangible, touchable relationship with God. Somehow the way I was taught and talked to did not sink in. I think also that those people were not demonstrating fruits of the spirit like peace, love, joy, and telling the truth in love. I know now that everyone is on a different place in his or her journey with God. Yet I also know that people act like they have a relationship with God because of social pressure or because of other reasons. But they don’t.
Telling the truth in love is not an official fruit of the spirit—but I believe with all my heart that this is one of main teachings of Jesus. He intensely disliked hypocrisy, and he demanded honesty. Paul and other new testament writers often encourage people to talk out their problems. Jesus told us not to let the sun go down on our anger—and a big part of that is talking problems over with people. Oh, this could be a whole article in itself.
I don’t know Rod Pruitt personally, and I am not sure if he demonstrates the fruits of the spirit in his personal life. But according to all that I have read by him, and he has a powerful endorsement by Max Lucado, who I respect very much, it sounds like Rod is a person that I would like to be friends with. Well, we are friends on Facebook—does that count? The challenge for me having a touchable, tangible, all surrendered relationship with God is that I just haven’t met anyone (sorry about that, all of you who are reading this who are my friends!) who have shown me by how they relate to me and by their life as I see it—that has motivated me to have an all-consuming desire to surrender my life to God.
No one has been able to convince me that it is possible to have a touchable, tangible relationship with God. No one has said the words in a way that inspired me to really make a commitment to make God number one. In fact, I have believed in God and stayed committed to a relationship with Jesus in spite of many people who profess to be Christians who have hurt me deeply.
But many of those same people were ones who inspired me to take the plunge of trusting Jesus with my heart, for which I will be eternally grateful. I yearn to have reconciliation with them, and I am not making that my highest priority since they don’t seem to think it is important. If any of you are reading this—just know that I would love to have an open and honest communication about the fact that I am forbidden to speak during church when the platform is opened to anyone who is attending, no matter what his or her beliefs are. I was told by the elders that because I don’t believe the bible is inerrant, I was not to speak at all during the service, or minister in any way, including dancing, praying individually, or giving testimony. I was also told that the reason I was singled out was because I was so vocal about my beliefs.
Jake Jacobson and Brad Cummings, who helped write the book THE SHACK and who do wonderful pod casts on www.thegodjourney.com persuaded me that God truly loves me, but somehow I missed out on the concrete ways of pursuing an intimate relationship with God. I don’t fault them—but more my denseness.
I did a google search on Rod Pruitt to see if I could find any dirt on him. In some ways, I was hoping to find out that he was a really controversial fellow and possibly even some proof that he was not who he said he was. I know that might sound a little crazy—but I guess there is a part of me that is afraid of embarking on this journey. Another part was afraid that I was once again following some belief or teaching that might be barking up the wrong tree. I could not find much on Rod Pruitt. I guess he has stayed under the radar because he is not yet famous. So many Christians are in to tearing each other up and putting each other down if a person gives any kind of impression that the local church is not necessary (and in fact might be down right damaging) to having a true relationship with God. Oh, and I asked Brad Cummings, if he knew Rod Pruitt because he was also friends on facebook. Brad had attended school with Rod thirty years ago—other than that did not have any information about him.
I must conclude this writing because I have a life to go live; a green smoothie to make; work I have committed to do. But through out the day I will be talking to God about all these issue. No longer am I looking at God to fulfill all my wishes. I am making my priority to have a touchable, tangible, intimate relationship with him where I can listen and interact in ways that help me make the wise decisions that will lead to abundance, peace, joy and healthy relationships with people and projects. No longer relying on people so much, I am free to love them in spite of their faults. No longer needing approval and love from others, I am actually more likely to receive approval and love. Making my highest priority to deepen my connection with a God who loves me especially and loves you especially, helps me to be free to truly want the best for everyone.
I am still on this thirty-day experiment. I still don’t feel God as a tangible and touchable presence as much as I want. I still don’t know quite how to shift from giving God my shopping list of needs to talking to him about how much I want a relationship with him, and asking him to help me have the faith that it can truly happen.
I do know that I have stopped asking for so many things—as good as they may have seemed—and that feels very right. Because I am on the verge of believing with all my heart—that having a touchable, tangible, intimate relationship with God will fulfill all my needs. I am really ready to embrace what Jesus says, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
Your input and comments are so welcome. I hope my words have been of help to you. If you want to try the 30 day spiritual experiment, you can find it here. http://www.godstorm.org/pdf/Is_God_Real.pdf You can either make a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org