Thursday, January 21, 2016

The heavy presence of the Lord - a clean heart and a weighty problem

Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob. Ps 114:7
The presence of the Lord has been in my thoughts. It represents the holiness of the place I can be in where the option of leaving that presence of the Lord God won’t ever be even an inkling of a thought for fear of losing any amount of a complete relationship with Him. But being in the presence of the Lord is to be in the fullness, the complete awareness that God is unequaled in the universe and brings a complete order with a complete justice and goodness to all that enter this presence through an inner cleansing of their soul.

It is my obedience and repentance that puts me in touch with that position where I know that the Lord God has welcomed me. It’s a position of responsibility that the earth has to tremble at, knowing that following any other idle thought will bring calamity. And the earth must shudder to know that it would not be totally in submission to the ruler of the universe whose word brought it into creation. Expressed in more concrete language, the fabric of matter would no long be held together by sub-atomic particle relationships and chaos would rule with energy having no ability to order itself.

So, it’s perplexing to me when I hear others speak of the presence of the Lord in a different way like “I can feel the heavy presence of the Lord right here. Can you feel it?” And my mind sets to work on the problem to connect with the person and the relationship they have with God that somehow creates the need to share about a weight of an unweighable quality and ask me to confirm it.

What are they saying?

Certainly it’s not a question of needing to know in that a leader is asking about your ability to detect God because we all believe in the omnipresence of God, right? It’s more rhetorical and a way of declaring that there is a palpable sensation that the leader is trying be aware of for the congregation so that it increases the value of the spiritual experience.

And so the experience is then a display of God’s power of which we can partake in and confirm that we are in the kingdom of God here in this building. And the better the experience, the more that God is allowing us to be a part of that kingdom which is represented by the church and the people present. Then that would mean that the value of the gathering is in direct proportion to how dense God is making Himself available to these seekers. But then, we’re stuck for how to measure a sense of dense.

The easiest way to find a way out of the quagmire is to equate density with emotional excitement and be done with it. Then after a snappy song, we can say that “God was really touching me.” You get the ability to match your enjoyment of a catchy tune to an approved statement that shows you’re a part of the tribe and feel pretty good about it. Problem gone. But not everybody saying they really felt the Lord means it was a barnburner of a praise song and maybe it was all about something else.

Should we question the person?

It’s also a question of authenticity for the leader in whether they are actually spiritually sensitive or just trying to exude the piousness of an anointed appointee worthy of their position who ends up masking their lack of connection with God with the whitewash of a familiar phrase. And as a shepherd of the flock, it’s not appropriate for us sheep to question our protector’s authenticity just like it’s not appropriate to question our instructor or doctor’s directives since training effort translates into authority in their roles.

When the leader is establishing a cultural norm for the group and you aren’t in the groove with the way it’s being played out, you want to find another socially acceptable excuse to deal with that embarrassment should anyone find out it’s not what you connect with. So, second guessing becomes popular. So, maybe I did feel something. Or maybe I am just not praying enough. And maybe…

We should question the question

So instead of putting the praising congregant into an awkward position of questioning their own sensitivity, the better thing to do is for the leader not to shame them into following that lost path of a disputed feeling and not ask the question at all. It would be better for them to express the result of that feeling provoking the declaration and let the people enjoy the fruit of the experience. It could be a joyful dance, or a heartfelt hug, or just a personal moment of transparency when God calls us to be real.

Children aren’t easily guilted into feeling something from their peers and the effect would be about the same as if you were to say “Can’t you just feel this person’s amazing grasp on differential calculus?” We should be more childlike. They would just ignore it and share their cookie with you.

But we’ve learned how to please our peers so we are more socially accepted and gain the attention that we crave. We say some stumbling phrases of polite attempts to connect in some way and they hit the hard walls of disconnectedness we keep up. And we turn away from the humble attitude that is our inner weakling who is saying “But I really never understood anything past basic arithmetic.”

An admission of not feeling it, is an admission of not being fully trained or very talented and smacks of ignorance which is hard to admit. You’re more likely to pass off the declaration with minimization and fall into another trap of disconnecting with the reality of that person by saying to yourself “they’re feeling pretty good today.” We lose the connection with the spirit of God in that person that is either there or at war with something there and the relationship grows shallow.

Connect through a clean heart

May we understand our relationship with God so that, without doubt, we know His presence will stay with us unless we leave first. It is in my clean heart where I know His presence is always welcome to abide, no matter the hills or valleys I travel in life. And so my prayer is that for my creator to keep a relationship with me in creating my clean heart every day.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Ps 51:10-11
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