8th & Wyandot: Keeping A Big World Small

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Last summer I took a few kids on a short hike less than an hour outside of Denver. The whole thing was a bit of a nuisance to me, to be honest. I had so much work that needed to get done that the thought of burning an entire morning on a hike seemed like a terrible waste.

The moment that turned this morning around for me happened on the drive into a beautiful foothill community when one of the kids, who had lived in Denver her entire life, said “This is the furthest away from Denver I have ever been!” Her statement was enough to make me pause. Most of the people who move to Denver come, at least in part, because of the accessibility of the mountains. “Everyone” has gone on at least a few hikes. But somehow she had fallen through some pretty big cracks in my assumptions during her 11 years of life.

The hike was a blast, partly because she kept noticing everything with such excitement that it caused me to remember how amazing the mountains really were. She noticed the flowers, the rocks, the trees, the chipmunks. Everything was new, and she soaked it all up.

It’s funny how I tend to resist the bigness of our world. I experience something breathtaking, like the mountains, and my brain immediately goes to work trying to make it all fit into the boxes of assumptions and awareness that already exist. After a while, hiking in the mountains feels no different than watching a movie.

This season invites us into an experience of new birth—to be born again. The thing with being born is that a child enters into the same world they have always been a part of, but have never seen. The invitation to be born again is often not an invitation into something outside of us or outside of the reality of our lives. It’s an invitation to take a second look, to dig a little deeper and allow ourselves to see all the familiar things with new eyes. Just like my experience of hiking with a first timer, I am invited to stand in awe of the breath taking nature of this life I have been living all along.

This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot reflection. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.
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The brief moment that shattered my belief in God…

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I was taking a shower when suddenly it all collapsed. In what would become a truly transformative moment, I looked at a shower tile. I looked at it. I saw it. I touched it. It felt incredibly real to me in that moment. I felt a combination of relief and deep sadness when I realized that the shower tile I was mesmerized by was significantly more real than the God I had spent the past decade worshiping. I got dressed and immediately informed my wife of my new revelation–I no longer believed in God.

I mean, how could a shower tile undo 10 years of theological training, Bible studies, sermons, prayer services, etc.? What was it about that moment in my shower that carried enough weight to shatter my confidence in what I had learned to believe?

It has taken me a few years to make any sense of that experience. I struggle to truly be present to my life. The hard stuff, the amazing stuff, the fun stuff, the sad stuff. It is incredibly difficult for me to allow myself to experience the fullness of any single moment. This is something that I have identified as a deep struggle of mine, but it was something that was in no way challenged by my theology when I got into that shower. In fact, my theology often pitted God against the natural world. At times it almost felt like I had to choose to either be fully present to the world around me, or to be fully present to God by working on my “Spiritual Life”.

I saw that shower tile and suddenly I found myself fully present. Right there. Right then. It was an incredible experience that gave me a sense of awakening that my theology never offered. I was convinced that I needed to fall into some sort of trance to experience what that shower tile induced so simply. My awakening involved me getting out of my head and into my body to experience the fullness of a single moment. What I experienced was so powerful, it completely shattered who I had built God to be in my mind. It truly is an indictment to how unsubstantial that God really was.

I stopped not believing in God only 24 hours later. Pathetic, I know. I could only pull off being an Atheist for one day. Even though I realized I did actually believe in God, the God that was shattered in that shower is still in pieces. I began to get to know God in a whole new way–a way that didn’t feel at odds with my physical experience of life.

I still have experiences like the one in my shower, but now they feel like moments pregnant with God’s presence rather than moments competing with God’s presence. They strengthen my awareness of God rather than feeling “un-spiritual”. This is because I have learned to see that God is truly in love with the life that God created. God is so in love with this life that our experience of God is most often had through the experiences of this life. They are not at odds.

The greatest spiritual awakening most of us could experience is looking someone in the eye and truly being with them–even if only for a moment. I am forever grateful to a grimy shower tile for waking me out of my sleep walking existence and helping me to see with new eyes the lavish beauty of God all around me.