02 December 2013

Neither Jew or Gentile

Who can stand apart from Your presence
Once we have tasted the goodness of Your love?
Who can change a heart? Only You can.
We're restless and thirsty for healing from above.
You break the heavens open,
and I'm trying to swallow the ocean.

I'm coming alive with You.
I'm coming undone with You.
I'm coming away with You.
With the faith of a child I come.
With my hands lifted high I come.
I'm coming alive with You.

Who can know Your thoughts and Your purpose?
I want to join in, to listen and obey.
Who can do the things that You can?
If its impossible, Lord You know the way.
You break the heavens open,
and I'm trying to swallow the ocean.

You make all things new.

~Newsong, "Swallow the Ocean".

The Bible and Book of Mormon are rife with people overcome by the Spirit. Fainting away, both men and women becoming as though they were dead, later awakening and proclaiming their salvation, prophesying, and proclaiming visions given to them while overcome. I used to wonder why it was that those ancient people got to do that, when I'd never seen anything even remotely like it . . . I had felt the Holy Ghost, sometimes amazingly, life-changingly.  But not anything like that.  It was a warmth inside, a powerful motivator that made my hands cold and my heart race during testimony meetings when there was something God had for me to say. And during a Girl's Camp testimony meeting high in the Sierra Nevadas, lit by firelight and hemmed by the astounding, earnest love of a hundred and fifty girls and their leaders, felt the presence and love of God so powerfully that I felt like a new person.  It changed me, and was the first tectonic event in my new creation in Christ.  I walked around for days, then weeks, in a glow, thinking "So this is what a testimony feels like."  I didn't understand, didn't know what to do with that first amazing taste of the transformative power of His love.  And, in desperate ignorance, I took the final step in abandoning that change a little over a decade later, after the ravages of depression and more loneliness had taken their toll.

It took another twelve years before the chance came again, and this time I had just enough knowledge from more careful reading of the word between times, and the close friendship of some who knew more than I did in my spiritually infantile, socially isolated early teens. And oh, what a difference. What a difference.  This time, I know a little more what I'm about, and am intent on not letting this change slip away.  That's what Alma's talking about in Alma 5. Alma wasn't talking to a bunch of spiritual neonates, encouraging them to seek a remission of their sins. He was chastising and straitening a crowd of adults who had already been baptised with fire and the Holy Ghost, and who had let that slip away. They knew what he was talking about, because they had all experienced it.  They had felt that mighty change, and thought they'd never be the same.

The Holy Ghost works the same now as it has for all of scripture. As part of the Godhead, the operation of the Spirit is unchanging in principle and practice. It can (and will!) descend on you in power, straight from heaven, when you earnestly seek the Lord God Almighty. And if you have never felt this, if you've contented yourself with the idea that it's just not meant for you in this life . . . don't settle.  Don't content yourself with the idea that you're "just not spiritually advanced enough" or "not meant" for a certain blessing.  Don't settle! Don't swallow the lie of the enemy, the trickster, the one who stands eternally opposed to the happiness and salvation of the Children of God. Our Father God doesn't care who you are, or where you've been. Are you as Saul, who became Paul? Alma the Younger and the sons of Helaman? They had on their heads the lives (whether physical or spiritual) of many saints. And yet God spoke to them all, and they turned to Him and were saved. Not only saved, but now remembered among the most notable of missionaries and disciples. Are your hearts blacker than theirs? Your sins more scarlet? You aren't an exception to the love of God. It simply is not possible to stand outside of the word that says He doesn't care about the color of your skin, the combination of X and Y chromosomes you have, or your religious history.

Believing you somehow don't count, aren't eligible to the highest blessings in this life, WILL damn you. Maybe not eternally, but it can make life a living hell, putting you in bondage simply because you don't take the invitation offered you in the way only Jesus can offer: so utterly, without reservation or limit. It offers your heart to the enemy's jailing, holds your wounds outside of the absolute healing Jesus offers.

Just stop it. Stop it, and seek Him.

If the idea of "coming undone" before God sounds embarrassing or undignified, if the intimate language in the Bible and Book of Mormon sounds strange, let go of your ideas of what it takes to be close to Jesus, of the destructive and limiting concept of stoic faith.  Romans forcibly injected that stoicism into surrounding culture to the point that it is held up as the ideal: utter self-control to conquer every weakness of the flesh. Only trouble is, that's the arm of flesh. Yes, we should have self-control. Godly self-control, which is born of the Holy Spirit, a gift of the same, is an ability from Christ, and Christ alone. Godly self-control evaporates the desire to injure another.

We are not called to bottle up our humanity and soldier on.  We are to pour out our sorrows at His feet, and to take His yoke upon us.  And best of all, He calls us to worship, to rejoice, and to praise when things go His way.  He suffered for every last stinkin' one of us, regardless of our "odds", track record, or "qualities".  I don't care who you are, where you've come from, or where you think you're going. God doesn't care if you've been in prison, sold others into slavery, broken every one of His commandments and every law of man. If you don't know Him, He wants you to. He wants to be real to you. Real, like the floor under your feet feels.  Real, like seeing the smile on the face of the person you love best of all. Real, like hearing the voice of your best friend. And more real than anything you've ever known. The sacrifice is already made, perfect and whole. His blood was already spilt, His life already offered up, His triumphant resurrection complete. Please, don't just think you need to plant yourself in the middle of the mainstream, figure your work is done, all is well in Zion, and now just have to plug away placidly, filling the expectations of mortals. And don't waste another minute of your life looking for something else to fill the chasm inside. There's nothing on earth that's big enough to fill it.  You've got to turn to Him--turn to Him and let Him fill that aching emptiness.

It's not easy.  It takes the abandonment of your life's self-protective work, and often the rejection of the religious philosophies and scriptural interpretations of men you may have built your life upon.  True doctrine will come through beautifully--but odds are you have traditions long-held and cherished to cut loose. Which can be scary. The familiar spirits assigned to you, that are comfortable with where you are, with who you are, and the limited influence you hold due to your own contentment with where you are, don't want you to grow. They don't want you to know God better, and will pull out all the stops (including scaring you thoroughly) to keep you away from further light and truth.

God doesn't use fear to control.  He loves and entreats. If a doctrine scares you, it's probably time to examine it more closely, and pray about it again, and harder.

There's no thirst so sweet as the thirst for another thorough dousing in Jesus' oceanic love. No safety like the surrounding of His love. And no power like the faith that comes when you finally "get it" . . . finally begin understand, as much as a novice's mind can grasp, the true nature of the God you thought you knew all of these years.

He makes ALL things new.

He has, He does, and He will.  Yesterday, today, and forevermore. Infinitely. Repeatedly. Always.

For you.

Praise God. :o)

(This was first posted a week or so ago, and I'm sorry to say that the writing was highly unrepresentative of the spirit in which it was offered.  I've gone over it carefully now, and hope that the edits I've made help to convey the true state of my heart.  God bless.)