I get so hung up on reading and writing and biblical scholarship. I love to study theology, spending countless hours struggling through tough questions that arise, going to sleep flustered because I could not figure it out yet overjoyed that I fought through it in the first place. I get that most do not function like this, but this is how I connect with God right now. I feel His presence most especially in His word (because duh) but also through the outside resources and commentaries I use, through the clicking of my keyboard and the soft swishing of my pencil. Taking my time to really dig into the Word, to challenge myself and ask hard questions, that brings me joy and fills me up in a way that I am energized for the rest of the day. But I also get hung up on it. Sometimes I think too much into the physical act itself and forget why it is that I am doing it in the first place. Sometimes I think if I do not read, or write, or type I will dishonor God that day and place a huge barrier in between us that will take an eternity to break down. I read in my book the other night a large section on prayer and how to properly use it to fight for joy in Christ. It was really great information, important knowledge for me to have because to be honest, my prayer life suffers. Not for any particular sinful reason but more because it confuses me sometimes; its an aspect of the faith that I still do not have a firm grasp on. Reading that section in my book hit me in a soft spot and, because Piper has a tendency to be blunt, it made me feel ashamed of my prayers. Ashamed to a point that as Jeremy and I were on the phone to pray together before bed, as has now become ritual, I could not pray out loud with him. I felt inadequate in my praying abilities; that I needed to kind of “get-it-together” in a sense before I could go back to praying. It was in this moment that I realized I am too hung up on one aspect of my relationship with God. I realized that I need to expand my perimeters, find new ways to connect with Him or at least validate other ways that I labeled “not good enough.”
The next chapter in my book was titled “How to Wield the World in the Fight for Joy.” I devoured this chapter unexpectedly. Pages and pages filled with other ways to find joy in God, not just in biblical scholarship and study. My brain was on overload. Still is. I function in such black and white context that all these ideas were not computing: abstract is not my strong suit. He talked about finding God in sunsets, nature, a hearty laugh, a good conversation. He explained how music can be used for both good and evil, how painting and drawing and poetry bring light to concepts about God we may not understand otherwise. And what is funny is that I do these kinds of things. I sing all of the time, I love to paint and draw, I sketch and dabble in poetry. I started wondering if my embroidery could be considered glorifying to God and how.
“And of course, words are not the only way that artists waken others to the glory of what they have seen. There is visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, film), and there is music. I will not say much here because I am out of my element. What I know about art and music I know from experience, not from formal study. I am a witness, not a judge. And what I testify to is the power of visual art, and especially music. As it is with creative writing, so it is with these: they have the potential to awaken the mind and heart to aspects of God’s glory that were not perceived before. Paintings or photographs of mountains and streams can call forth a sense of wonder and peace. If we are willing to ‘look along’ (not just ‘at’) these pictures, our eyes will run up the beams to the Original Glory, and the wonder and peace will rest finally in the wonderful and peaceful mountains and streams of God’s power and mercy” (Piper).
Reading this does not settle in my heart well. I have yet to experience God in these visually artistic ways. Through music, yes, I would say I have felt that movement of God through music. But through a painting? Through a poem or a tree? Not so much. I feel silly admitting this because almost the entirety of the people I surround myself with connect to God in these ways best.
Recently I went out on a limb, took a leap of faith, and auditioned for my church’s worship ministry. I did not want to, I was very nervous and almost didn’t go through with it. Singing in front of people has always scared me (I still haven’t sung in front of Jeremy!) but alas, I went through with it and allowed God to do with it what He will. I’m on this team now and am still nervous. Worship ministry confuses me. It is another area of the faith that I do not have a firm grasp on. I have come to certain conclusions based on what I have read and what little experience I do have. But I am about to step into something that I don’t fully understand. Even as I am typing this, it is becoming clearer to me why this is coming about at this time. As I search for God through other avenues, I think God is going to reveal Himself to me in ways I truly have never experienced Him before. However, as much as I don’t understand the creative connectivity with God, there is an aspect of this I do feel a firm grasp on:
“To wield music well in the fight for joy we should be filled with the Word of God, so that our minds are shaped by biblical truth. If our mind and heart have been molded by the contours of God’s character and humbled by the grace of the gospel, we will discern better what sounds reveal and correspond to the varied glories of God. And since this depends so much on cultural contexts and personal backgrounds, we will need not only a grasp of musical richness, but also deep theological grounding in God-centered truth, and cultural sensitivity, and an awareness of the dynamics of the heart, and profound love for people of all kinds” (Piper).
I realize that God meets us all where we are at and will grow and guide us into new skills and ministries as long as we remain sensitive to who He is and what His word says. That makes this new venture a lot less overwhelming for me. I know that someday, through faith and discipline, I will get to a place where the above excerpt won’t scare me; I will get to a place where I can say “I knew nothing of this when I started, but where I am now I can say I do this well and that God receives all glory.” I am just not there yet. Sometimes I forget that it has not yet been three years of walking with God for me, that there is grace as I navigate. I latched onto what was familiar. For almost three years the sole way I felt God was through reading, study and writing. I’m opening up now to see that there are less rigorous ways to connect and glorify God and that does not make them less than. I can feel a childlike wonder as I enter into this. I’ve no experience of this before, only a secure foundation in God’s truth, a God given natural ability, and a willingness to learn. I think that makes this exciting.
So, I would like to end with a challenge. For those of you reading this, I encourage you to look to God and reflect on how you best connect with Him. Take inventory of the different avenues you currently use, then find the new aspects of faith that you may not be as comfortable with and give it a go. You, as well as I, are likely to experience God in a fresh, new way that will once again ignite the fire in our souls for more of Him.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God” (Romans 1:19-21).